By Garrett Van Schaick
(July 1, 2014)mcgilligans

Running through muggy 90 degree weather in a pair blue khakis that might be too tight for my strides, a button-down shirt, and backpack rarely has never had a better reward than being able to view the U.S.A. play Belgium at Philadelphia’s oldest bar, McGilligan’s.  I hardly felt alone while doing my business casual wind-sprints.  The men and women of Philly were all scurrying inside.  However, I would like to believe the heat to not be the antecedent eliciting their inspiring hustle.  In my mind, these people were modeling the relentless pace seen from Michael Bradley who is the United States’ prized center midfielder.  For those of you who missed out on the World Cup, Bradley made a name for himself by running almost equivalent to a marathon in four soccer matches. image-3

Anyway, I reach McGilligan’s and find my friends Andrea and Marie.  A local, hoppy beer was well within reach of every patron.  Framed by American spirit, fried onion rings and hot dogs occupied the center of every glossy stained table.  The masses spared not one square foot on two floors.  Men in summer ties and powerful suit coats shared tables with body-painted die-hards.  Geeky techies rubbed elbows with tattooed musclemen.  The citizens of Philly put aside aesthetic differences and salary gaps to undeniably and fanatically support our nation’s best futbol players on their path to glory.  Every man and woman assembled under one label, a U.S.A soccer fan. image-6

The small town and university from which I originated never provided me with the context for instant camaraderie between such a wide array of people.  Merely the presence of all those tightly squeezed fans captivated me.  The cries of joy when our goalie saved a shot pushed me to the edge my seat while I sat, with dry, wide-open eyes watching our boys.  The frustrated heckling when a referee failed to call a “blatant” penalty was contagious.  Every one invited themselves to chime into the conversation about referees presumed personality or personal life.  Overall, however, we kept the comments positive and upbeat for literally anyone affiliated with America.  We cheered for the coach when he took a sip of water, we clapped when a player tied his shoe, we took a sip when the cameras focused on America’s fans in Brazil, and above all we rioted and celebrated extensively once Julian Greene became the youngest American to score in the World Cup.  I have never hugged so many strangers or received harder high fives. micgilly 2

Even though America lost to Belgium 2-1, that game made it clear to me the amplification the city environment has on every event.  The cheers and groans enthralled me and were shared by every fan cramped into the tension filled World Cup climate.  You can’t get that sitting on your couch with some friends.  The city gave me a new identity that day.  The salience of experiencing the same emotions and sharing the same vision of an American World Cup victory gave me a new sense of pride for being a piece of something much bigger than myself.  I am resident of Philadelphia.  I am a supporter of American soccer.  I am a citizen of the United States. image-4

Going Through the Motions

By Marie Zill

IMG_5127With only a few weeks left, I find myself getting into a routine and in a way, stuck in it.  Wake up at 7:41, get out of the shower at 7:52, leave by 8:20, get out of work, nap, eat dinner, relax and go to bed.  Now, don’t get me wrong, so many great things have been happening at work!  I’m getting closer with my supervisor, the school makeover is finally coming together, and everyday my want to teach in that kind of school grows stronger!  It’s more about the transition into adult life that I’ve been caught up in.  So, this week I decided it was time for a little bit of a change!  I started waking up in the morning to run three days a week and work out the other two after work as well as get in tune with the little beauties of Philly again.  It’s so easy to get caught up in everyday events that we don’t take a step back and look at the big picture.  I owe a little shout out to my boyfriend because whether he knows it or not, he has inspired me to get up and do the things that may not sound appealing when I’m about to fall asleep on the couch after work but feel so good after I suck it up and do them! IMG_5153

Last Tuesday in class we had a great speaker come in and talk to us about positivity and how important it is.  She gave us activity where we had to write an “elevator speech” and it was not easy!  But it forced me to recognize my strengths and capitalize on them… I’ve been trying to grow up a little bit rather than running away from some things that bother me!

Okay, I know this blog is totally all over the place but everyday I encounter something awesome that is worth sharing!  I’ve decided if I ever live in Philly I would live in Old City… it is beautiful over there: trees, parks, cobblestone, and old buildings. Plus, they just opened a new pop-up park, Harbor Park, which I am so excited to visit!  But then, in my head I struggle with, “…could I really live over there?”  The past month I have been here I have been, maybe, “annoyed” — I can’t quite wrap my head around the most appropriate adjective — by the difference in Center City compared to where I work a few miles north.  Center City appears fake to me.  I know it’s a little harsh and I need to figure out the correct wording, but where I work life is so different and I’m drawn towards it.  Not because I feel the desire to help them as if the community is a charity case, but I want to be a part of the community, I want to know more about the people who live in that community because in North Philly life isn’t hidden behind a business suit.  The community is based on loyalty and respect and I want a life like that rather than materialistic things.  I wonder what would happen if we genuinely asked questions to others?  Or if life wasn’t a constant battle to “get to the top?”  Would I like it?  Would it even work?  What if everyone could recognize their individual strengths and what makes them happy?  What if there were still “levels” but those “levels” could interact and work as a team?  I’ll ponder on this more and let you know where I stand at the end of this trip… I cannot believe there are only a few days left L

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The sweet smell of summer
  • Random strangers genuinely smiling at each other
  • The beautiful trees in Old City
  • My boyfriend’s visit!!!
  • Trying to walk on a tightrope thingy this weekend
  • The first sip of coffee in the morning
  • Laughter J

The Crew

62314friendsBy Marie Zill

After being here a month I couldn’t even begin to explain the fun I have had with the other interns here! I have found myself hanging out consistently with a certain few, but every single student here has a unique opinion to offer and I love listening to them all. Especially because none of them have the same major as me so it is great to see different perspectives on certain topics.


Although the weekends and class time have been opportunities to get to know a lot of the interns, Tuesdays with “The Crew” (we only call ourselves this because we are the group that hang out on Tuesdays!) have created a lot of lifetime memories! We have explored a lot of Philly on our weekdays off!  We experienced The Franklin Institute, many happy hours, Pride Parade, Magic Gardens, the Eastern State Penitentiary, and very long walks!  I would highly recommend visiting all of those places if you are ever in Philly. But, you probably don’t want to hear what I did on what day… you probably want to know what I have learned!


At the beginning of this experience I was really missing my friends because I wanted to share all of these new discoveries with them but these Tuesdays have become truly special to me (even though I would love for my friends to be here). The relationship I share with The Crew and the other interns is so unique. I will never see many of these individuals again. Of course, I would absolutely love to but distance is a tricky thing.  This unique relationship has allowed an outside perspective on my life and sparked many intricate conversations that have assisted me in learning more about myself as a person.

I’m learning a lot about myself here and evaluating what is and is not important to me. I believe you can only analyze your life so much, but I am trying to direct my learning to understanding what others may stereotype about me. I must develop the ability to “prove them wrong.” I can’t thank The Crew and others enough for assisting me in this because I can feel myself maturing. I don’t get cheesy that often but they do truly hold a special place in my heart!

There are still many days that I love to be alone and explore; but lately, a lot of my exploring and spontaneous decisions have been with the other interns. Those that were merely acquaintances just a short month ago are definitely my friends now!

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The amount of doggies at the Dollar Stroll
  • My ability to cook!
  • Increasing love for squirrels
  • The strength in a long distance relationship
  • I am so blessed to work around the people I do

Critique of the Week

By Marie Zill

It’s official!  Three people have asked me for directions around the city… I must be turning into a city girl… I’m beginning to “fit in.”  Since I touched on “fitting into” the city in my last blog, I think I’ll discuss “fitting in” as it pertains to our class this summer.

6_12_14blueskyEvery Tuesday we’ve been analyzing and critiquing why certain words/phrases are chosen and placed in certain contexts.  I love this portion of the class because it’s relatable to my education classes at Alma but, I’m not an expert.  Critiquing is never easy.  I have noticed myself looking at the big picture rather than being nitpicky and looking at individual words.  Since this class is only eight weeks, our feedback is efficient and fast-paced.  Our professor, Dr. Clark, has done a great job of returning out papers with a lot of feedback it and making himself available for individual meetings.  A new guest speaker also comes in every week to break up our class time with Dr. Clark.  I feel like I am on information overload with the amount that I have learned about myself, the other interns, and society!  This blog seems to be a nice way to relax my thoughts and begin to critique them (the golden word of the week).

Throughout the week I have tried to strengthen my critiquing skills by questioning people’s actions or simply asking myself the “why” of certain things.  To be completely honest, asking myself why things happen has sent my brain wandering a few times this week.  Whether it be getting frustrated at society, feeling sorry for the cute little mice that live in the subway, hoping they don’t get squashed and torn away from their little families, or simply what if someone just chose to use that word because that’s how their brain thinks.  But then I get to thinking, if a person chooses a certain word “just because” there must be some background as to why the word was chosen or a subconscious decision made to place one thing before another.  As a future teacher, the why, what, and how is so important to me.

Children, and adults for that matter, can learn to be self-sufficient by asking these questions and showing curiosity.  I’m beginning to think that this may be one of the reasons I enjoy exploring alone because I can ask questions and find the answers that I believe in all by myself.  My next step is to collaborate with my new friends and learn what their “why, what, and how” is.  Wait until my next blog to learn about the awesome new people I have met!! 6_12_14squirrelsnack

A few of the countless moments of happiness of the week:

  • The cute baby mice that chase each other in the subway
  • feeling comfortable enough to share and to get closer with the other interns
  • The man who was new to the city that bought me a token this morning because I’d lost my monthly pass and the SEPTA doesn’t give change. The best part of it all: I found my pass in my pocket when I got to work!
  • The squirrel that took my apple core into his tree then dropped it and brought it back up to his place
  • Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was 2 for $7 at CVS this week!

Compasses and Forks

By Garret Van Schaick6_12_14GarrettBen

The chance for two people to have all the same experiences does not exist.  What our experiences create is our unique pile of idiosyncrasies: preferences, opinions, doubts, dislikes, passions, values, etc..  When viewed altogether, this combination creates the moral compass we all use to guide our steps through life.  So far, every one of my steps in Philadelphia has yet to be a source of regret.

Neglecting to reference our compass at a fork disables us from leading our own life and thus, as a result of our oversight, we become a follower of a life led by another.  Every step 6_12_14witdalocalsthereafter could be your biggest regret and the time you’ll spend to retrace your steps will only bring you back to the starting line.

Attending The Philadelphia Center has provided me with an enormous amount of opportunity.  I have been in the city for two weeks now and everyday I am faced with more choices than I hope to consider.  From music festivals to museums to bars and restaurants to parades the city of brotherly love offers something for every boy and girl.

tony magicBut time would be wasted if I closed my eyes and picked one out a hat.  I have come to a point in my life where settling for anything instead of nothing won’t yield a profit but rather consume some of the precious little time I have in Philly.  Who I am is whom I love.  Deviating from that and 6_12_14nightmuralrunning against my own grain for the sake of others does not interest me.  I am not saying that I despise trying new things; I love to explore.  Specifically, I love to dive deeper into the things I know stimulates my mind (food, science, beer, art, and people) regardless of what others may say about me.  Charging forward with your compass and without looking back is how you grow and expand as an individual

I came from Ohio Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts school located in the small Ohio city of Delaware.  After arriving in Philly and meeting a few handfuls of people, I heard statements beginning with “Oh, you need to check out…” enough times to make several bucket lists.  With so many possibilities, only the suggestions that resonated with me were the ones I pursued.  I came to Philly to explore, and I haven’t stopped since.

Becoming Ambidexterous

By Marie Zill

5_24_14My first day of traveling and being in Philadelphia felt like I had broken my dominant right arm and had to learn to write with my left hand. Growing up in a friendly community then going to school at Alma College where we say that we live in a bubble, making the move to Philadelphia was not a natural step.

While waiting for the bus in Ann Arbor, I felt like I could vomit.  I was thinking of all the possible things that could go wrong and I didn’t know how I was going to travel alone with two giant bags! The bus felt okay but once I got into the train station, the nauseous feeling was back.  I felt like I was in a scary movie because the train was delayed every 20 minutes and tensions were high, I didn’t know what was going to happen next and everything was so unfamiliar to me.  It wasn’t until 2am that I boarded my first train (it was supposed to take off at 11:45pm).  This is when I started feeling like a helpless woman…  the stairwell was so narrow I could hardly fit to carry my heavy luggage up, I had to ask for help from men and I sat in the wrong seat.  I felt so disappointed in myself because I knew that I was better than that and that I am strong and I should have been able to lift those bags myself!

After traveling for what felt like forever, “writing with my left hand” was feeling a teeny tiny bit better.  Though I still felt overwhelmed while we were taking a tour and quite frankly, I didn’t listen very well throughout the city.  At that point my confidence level was near nothing after traveling and wandering around a city where I might as well be wearing a giant sticky note saying, “I’m a tourist!!”

I began to think… Why should I know how to travel on a train, walk through a city, or get on a bus?  I’ve never done it before and I’m not in a rush so why not learn by trial and error! So, I took a deep breath in and let it all out and began to realize the beauty of the city.  Every street has a different feel and is filled with different activities.  Since it was Memorial Day Weekend when we arrived I had two full days to explore the city and how things worked.zillbio

After class (which I’ll explain in a future blog) on Sunday, we wandered over to the Reading Terminal Market.  I was immediately drawn to this place and knew I would be back because there were so many unique vendors, all selling local and fresh products.  We only got lunch here because we had a lot of shopping to do since it was our first day out!  I had a carrot, strawberry, and spinach smoothie for lunch that was wonderful. After lunch, we decided we should just walk to Walmart because well, why not?!  It was a beautiful day and Dr. Clark did tell us to explore!  So an hour and a half later we were 4.1 miles away from where we started and at Walmart.  It was really interesting to see and feel the city change.  It is incredible to me how quickly neighborhoods can change, as if there is an invisible fence at certain intersections.  After walking that far on day one I have learned a few tricks:

  1. ALWAYS wear comfy shoes6_1_14
  2. Observe and enjoy your surroundings
  3. Watch out for the taxis… many of them don’t slow down!
  4. Remember that the sun sets in the west

My second day of exploration was AMAZING!  I woke up with my daily coffee (because we got all new appliances with our apartment!!!!) and ran down to the Schuylkill River Trail where I discovered a dog park!  I sat and watched the dogs for a good 40 minutes until I realized I needed to continue on because I didn’t actually have any dogs.  It’s pretty funny how much humans are like dogs… some feel like they can pee wherever they want, some never leave their owner’s side, and many feel the need to be all up in your business when they first meet you!  I wandered down the trail to the Rocky Steps really taking in nature and how beautiful this place is… it may be a big city but I was navigating it like I had been there for a month.  And I have always heard that people move fast in a big city and other than the buses and taxis, I really don’t think they are that fast-paced here.  On my way home I tried gelato for the first time ever at Capogiro… wonderful experience!  I felt so at peace with myself in that store, especially after processing that just two days ago things felt so foreign… I think I’m becoming “ambidextrous.”6_5_14

Come to Philadelphia! (A Place to Call Home)

By Rachel Mazzaro

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It is hard to believe that just over a week ago I boarded a plane and said my goodbyes to the wonderful city of Philadelphia. Leaving was definitely bittersweet. I had become accustomed to my life in the city and it was hard to believe my time in Philly was coming to an end. I really enjoyed being able to walk or catch public transportation to any destination, interacting with The Philadelphia Center faculty and staff, exploring the different neighborhoods, eating a variety of delicious foods, working at my internship, and spending quality time with my housemates. On the other hand, I was looking forward to seeing my friends and family again as well as walking across that stage and grabbing hold of my diploma that I have worked so hard for these past four years. Although leaving was hard, I was glad I could look back on a semester full of accomplishments, adventures, new relationships, and a tremendous amount of growth.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Philadelphia was always part of my college plans. The idea of spending a semester in Philly excited me because I love to travel to new places and I had never spent a significant amount of time living and working in a city environment. I knew that if I wanted to truly explore all that macro social work has to offer, I needed to get out of Holland, Michigan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with macro practice, this means that my focus is more on changing larger systems through working with organizations and communities rather than counseling individuals or families. Through The Philadelphia Center, I was looking forward to the opportunity of putting my college education into practice and experience a taste of independence.

City 3First I want to talk a little bit about independence. Yes, you gain some independence while in college, but life after graduation is a whole other level of independence many have yet to experience. If you are someone who may be a little anxious about graduating and want to dip you toes into what life after college may look like, I challenge you to spend a semester in Philly. You will not regret it. It’s true, leaving a semester early was not easy and I missed my friends who were still back on campus. However, I was ready for a new challenge and eager to get out of my college bubble where I often felt trapped. When the semester was over, I came back ready and excited to graduate. I could not wait for them to put that diploma in my hand! Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to be sad to leave a community you have grown to love. I loved my time at Hope College and I will definitely miss seeing my friends on a regular basis. However, it felt good to be ready to say goodbye rather than feeling scared and attached to a community that could no longer exist. I do not think this would have happened without spending a semester in Philly.

City 2Living in Philadelphia for a semester allowed me the opportunity to acquire real skills of independence that I will carry with me throughout the years, especially now that I am a college graduate. I have officially conquered moving to a new city, finding a place to rent, paying for utilities, budgeting, navigating public transportation, interviewing for a social work position, and working a 32 hour week at an amazing organization. Through these experiences, I now feel confident in my ability to live on my own and now know that I can build a community wherever life may take me.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs for internship opportunities, The Philadelphia Center has an abundance of options for any major and I was so glad to have the opportunity to be involved in choosing where I wanted to be. With a macro practice focus in mind, I could not have picked a more perfect organization to spend my internship hours with. Through working with Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), I was able to put useful skills into practice such as my background in working with technology, writing grants, fundraising, outreaching through social media, advocating for human rights and organizing. Not only was I able to use the skills I already had, but more importantly I was able to expand my knowledge in important topics such as political democracy, the digital divide, incarceration, social movements, the school-to-prison pipeline, housing takeovers, gentrification, the importance of protests and demonstrations, and so much more. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to work with PPEHRC and learn from some of the most incredible antipoverty activists of our time. Our world is so broken and full of injustice but I have found so much hope and inspiration through all that PPEHRC does.

One of the most impactful parts of Philadelphia for me was building a Internship 2community within the city. When I began my internship I immediately felt welcomed and soon after it was as if I had always been part of the team. Those at PPEHRC follow a philosophy they like to call the “politics of love”. This means that they consider each other family and are always looking out for and taking care of one another no matter what. It did not take long for me to feel part of this family and I am truly blessed to know that Philadelphia will always be a place I can call home. It is my hope that I can return in the fall and continue to promote justice in a city that I love alongside the most radical, passionate, and inspiring people of PPEHRC.

So, as someone who has officially completed a semester with The Philadelphia Center, all I can really say is COME TO PHILADELPHIA! Allow yourself to be challenged and explore an amazing city full of wonderful people. Being on a college campus is great, but taking a semester to study off campus will allow you to grow in ways you could not have imagined! You will not regret it!TPC