From Drexel University Magazine: Serving Side by Side
By Lesley Gudehus
The Center for Civic Engagement is a springboard for our University to engage the Philadelphia community. The following stories illustrate just some of the ways in which Drexel Community Scholars are making a difference.
LIFT is a national organization with community-based resource centers in Boston, Chicago, New York, North and West Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Its mission is to combat poverty and expand opportunities. LIFT harnesses the resources and knowledge of college students to empower individuals in the community to help break the cycle of poverty. Drexel Community Scholar Nirali Patel ’14 explains: “Essentially, LIFT teaches the skills necessary to be successful. We work on building résumés and cover letters, performing mock interviews, facilitating job searches, applying for housing and public benefits, and filing taxes. Basically we help clients with anything they might need assistance with.”
Nirali works one-on-one with clients twice a week in the office doing whatever it is each needs to accomplish that day. “I am also responsible for attending bi-weekly reflection times where all the volunteers have ‘brush-up’ training sessions on a particular resource and reflect on their volunteering,” she says.
As a Drexel Community Scholar, Nirali facilitates communication between the Center for Civic engagement and the LIFT office, and she is the liaison for Drexel volunteers at LIFT. A full-time student in Biological Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences, she averages 18 academic credit hours per term yet spends six to 10 hours each week volunteering.
“Poverty is something we hear about all the time,” she says, “and through this program I can see the direct impact I am making on the community. We teach clients the skills necessary for getting out of the cycle of poverty, empowering them. We track their progress, and so I can see their growth. It is an eye-opening experience. The members of the community that we help are just regular people who are facing a hard time. This program has helped me to grow as a person, both personally and professionally, allowing me to work side by side with people of diverse backgrounds trying to reach a common goal.”
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