Through a student-led video and poster campaign, University of Pennsylvania students are getting the word out about six cultural resource centers available to help classmates achieve success inside and outside the classroom.
The video, “My Safe Space at Penn,” features students sharing how they’ve benefited from the Greenfield Intercultural Center, La Casa Latina, the LGBT Center, Makuu--the Black Cultural Center, the Pan-Asian American Community House and the Women’s Center.
Javellys Polanco, a junior from Providence, R.I., says that after her father passed away last year, La Casa Latina was the place on campus where she found comfort and support when she returned to campus.
“I found my home again, just as I had in freshman year,” says Polanco. “I felt safer and more connected to the people at La Casa Latina.”
The project was conceived last spring by student leaders on the five boards for minority groups on campus: the Asian Pacific Student Coalition, the Lambda Alliance, the Latin@ Coalition (formerly the Latino Coalition), Umoja and the United Minorities Council. The video aims to inspire students and encourage them to seek out groups on campus where they can find support when coping with classwork, interpersonal relationships and stress.
“The message,” says Denzel Cummings, co-chair of Umoja, the umbrella group for Penn’s black student organizations, “is that it’s okay to seek out help from people who have dealt with those experiences in the past and can show you the resources that you may not necessarily know of or connect you with people who have a similar perspective.”
Cummings, who considers Toronto home, along with Dawn Androphy, from St. Louis, chair of the Lambda Alliance, appear at the beginning of the video to introduce the students who share their own experiences with the cultural resource centers.
Meredith Stern, a cinema studies major from Philadelphia and an intern in the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life, shot and edited the nearly-five-minute video.
“There’s so many things that you could face, and, if you’re experiencing these things, there’s a space for you where students and staff are there to support you in your time of need,” says Cummings.
Born in Toronto, Cummings’ family moved around before finally settling in North Carolina.
“I’m a second-generation immigrant. My parents emigrated from Guyana, South America. I wouldn’t think that I would have anyone here with a similar experience, but there are people at Penn who have a very similar experience, and you can find them in these spaces.”
Beginning this month, the video will be shown on the cultural resource centers’ websites and will be emailed to all students before the start of the semester.