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A Far Cry from the Beach

By Carol Brévart-Demm


Rather than spending spring break on the beach, Kimberly St. Julian ’12, Zehra Hussain ’09, and Madrianne Wong ’11 headed into Philadelphia.

Ask Kimberly St. Julian ’12 how she spent spring break this year, and words gush out: “I got to teach pre-K and kindergarten at Fishtown Recreation Center. I also worked with MANNA, an organization that delivers food to people with immune-deficiencies. It was really inspiring. I’d like to go back there. I want to go back to Fishtown, too. I worked at a community garden, where kids produce organic food and sell it to local restaurants. I made friends with students from UPenn, Temple, and Saint Joseph’s—which I didn’t even know existed. I took a subway for the first time. I’d never seen one before. I’m from Dayton, Texas. It’s really small. Now I love Philly. I just had so much fun….”

St. Julian was one of 30 students from local colleges and universities, including Zehra Hussain ’09 and Madrianne Wong ’11, selected from about 100 applicants to participate in Alternative Spring Break Philadelphia, an-all-expenses-paid program, with the goal of enabling students from area colleges and universities to spend five days living together, pursuing volunteer activities during the day, and exploring the city’s cultural offerings in the evening.

“We stayed together at the Banks Street Hostel, so we all got to hang out with each other. It was really cool to meet students from other schools,” says Hussain, who like St. Julian and Wong has been involved in volunteer activities for years. “We worked with six different nonprofit organizations, and although there wasn’t time for a whole lot of depth, it was so cool to discover what was out there. And we all wanted to experience Philly’s cultural life and feel more comfortable in the city.”

Wong, a Californian who anticipates a career in social work or therapy, says she went into the program without really knowing what to expect.

Although she enjoyed the activities, she cherishes new relationships both with students from other schools and with Philadelphia itself. “My conception of Philly before was based on Center City,” she says. “Learning how to use the subway and getting to know all those different parts of the city was really eye-opening.”

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