Philadelphia is an intense city. It can be downright intimidating for those who are not from around here. If you put stock in stereotypes, we are a town of over competitive and fierce sports fans that are a stark contrast to our city’s nickname, “The City of Brotherly Love.” Despite these misconceptions, every year Philadelphia produces hundreds of dedicated, compassionate, and talented individuals who chose to help make a difference in their communities.
In a recently released study by CNCS, Philadelphia was recently named a Top Ten AmeriCity. This means that, per capita, Philly is one of the top AmeriCorps member-producing cities in the nation. The roads that lead people to serve may be different, but once here, there is plenty to love about serving in Philadelphia.
LaShere Snyder is a life-long Philly native who is now serving her second year for AmeriCorps. For LaShere, City Year and Philadelphia have a dynamic and working relationship. “City Year is known in this community,” she said. “You know someone is going to come up to you and say hi because of the red jacket at least twice a day.” This direct connection between the community and City Year makes City Year a visible source for positive change in the community. “The way kids come up to us, it’s almost like they are seeing Santa Claus,” adds LaShere.
Generations of AmeriCorps members in Philadelphia has resulted in this positive relationship between the city and City Year. AmeriCorps members like LaShere hope to see this relationship continue as more people come to learn about the benefits of serving in Philadelphia. “My city needs a lot of help. The students and community deserve a chance. When new [AmeriCorps] members come in, it gives the students a little bit of sunshine,” said LaShere.
Senior AmeriCorps member Kevin Hawkins started his year a City Year the day after he moved into Philly. “It was surprisingly smooth for me,” Kevin said. Beyond just figuring out where the grocery store was, Kevin says his biggest worry was fitting in with an entire new group of people in a totally new city. The welcome Kevin received by the staff and Corps was uplifting and a relief for Kevin. “Everybody was welcoming and treated me like family from my first day,” said Kevin. “I felt like I was meant to be here.”
One of greatest resources for those serving in Philadelphia is each other. Corps Members get the opportunity to experience the culture of a city together, while taking advantage of some great resources. For Kevin and numerous other Corps Members, teammates tend to be the first resource for traversing Philly. “Don’t be afraid to ask anybody who served last year how to get where you need to go,” advised Kevin. “Nine times out of ten, they’ll be able to help.”
Following Kevin’s advice, we checked in with City Year Corps Members and compiled some of the most often utilized tricks and tips on how to best experience Philadelphia during your year of service.
Fun Events (and FREE ones too)
Philadelphia is a big city with a lot to see. With a SEPTA pass, Corps Members get a chance to easily access everything the city has to offer. Sites like Campus Philly and Uwishunu are great jumping off points for things happening in the city. Campus Philly highlights include an insanely useful calendar of everything going on in Philly (which you can copy to your own digital calendar) as well as part-time job listings. Uwishunu updates weekly with extensive “Things to do this Week” and “Things to Do this Weekend” posts. As an added bonus, they are always sure to highlight which events have no admission cost. Free apps like Transitor SEPTA’s own tracking app allow you get where you’re going, though it never hurts to plan ahead.
SEPTA also offers any TrailPass or TransPass holders to a wide range of unique perks that are worth checking out. A few examples include: a free month at Sweat Fitness for pass holders, discounted hot/iced coffee at Dunkin on Tuesdays, and even buy one, get one free tickets to select Philadelphia Phillies games.
Thanks to an outreach program for Pennsylvania residents who use an ACCESS card, card holders can visit participating museums, science centers, gardens, historic sites and attractions at a deeply discounted rate. Check here for a list of 31 venues across the city that offer $2 admission to ACCESS cardholders. Want a little more Philly culture? The Arden Theater offers free tickets to any AmeriCorps member who presents their nametag. The free tickets can only be redeemed 15 minutes before a show and if space is available.
This recent survey shows that Philadelphia is home to so many people that respect and want to engage with the community. The city has shown that they are proud that so many of its citizens serve by striving to make the city an inviting place for Corps Members.
Written by Joe McGee, City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member serving on the Civic Engagement Team