Freshmen embrace chance to protest

By Christine Graf
August 28, 2008

Renee Roff/submitted photo

Cars honked as first-year Cabrini students protested for the rights of disabled Kensington residents, holding up signs such as “orange juice for breakfast not bleach – close Philadelphia Nursing Home” and “how do you spell murder – PNH!”

“The people protesting needed us and we were showing them that we cared,” Kelly Fisher, freshman political science and secondary education major, said.

These freshmen did not set out during the day of service to protest. It happened unexpectedly and they seized the opportunity. A service trip to Kensington, an impoverished area of Philadelphia, was interrupted by an empty gas tank in their bus.

The Wolfington Center set up this trip to Philadelphia through a program called “S-cubed” which introduced first-year students to Cabrini’s core mission and values, while providing meaningful community building- but no one could predict the actual amount of real life experience some of these new freshmen would get.

Renee Roff, elementary education major and one of the student leaders of the program, described her particular experience with the freshmen students in Kensington and how their tour of the welfare and drug funded area turned into protesting.

At the end of their “reality tour,” given by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, the bus pulled up to the Philadelphia Nursing Home and many residents of the nursing home were sitting outside protesting for its closing.

The protest leaders got on the bus and explained that the nursing home was not treating its residents properly and many of them, although disabled, could and would live on their own if the city of Philadelphia gave them suitable housing.

As the protest leaders got off the bus, the Cabrini students were ready to get back to campus for their next planned activity when a change of plans arose- the bus’ fuel gage was broken and they were out of fuel.

The protesters had been going strong for 24 hours and were not planning on backing down until the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, recognized the need to close the nursing home. Roff decided that it wouldn’t hurt to aid in the progress.

“There we were with time to kill and a protest that was going on for 24 hours. We were offered to join; I figured why not, and invited any first year student to join if they wanted,” Roff said. “Surprisingly most of them were eager to help.”

Kelsey Wetman, freshman undeclared major, Alykat Tyms, elementary education major, Mary Watson, pre-nursing major and Kelly Fisher, political science and secondary education major, were some of those first-year students who jumped at the opportunity to lend a helping hand to those in need.

“I was completely thrown off by the sight of Cabrini freshmen on their first day at school protesting for the closing of the Philadelphia Nursing Home; it was unreal,” Roff said.

The once tired-out protest was rejuvenated by young fresh voices who added that extra spark that was lost in the midst of tired but still dedicated residents.

“We really brought a lot of emotion and energy to the protest,” Watson said.

The freshmen who participated were enthusiastic to be involved in something so hands on and proactive. It was no delay for them as they filed off the bus to join the many residents whose lives depended on some sort of change within the nursing home system.

“We were making the best out of the situation and it felt really good doing it; I actually wish we went with the intentions of doing it,” Wetman said.

Tyms agreed. “It was exciting; we were living what we were learning.”

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Christine Graf

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