Freshman on a Mission to Help Others

  • By Jonathan Hartley

Shania Smith arrived at Drexel with a uniquely unselfish goal – find an organization focused on helping others where she could continue the service learning she had enjoyed in high school. Her search concluded quickly after a stop at the Drexel Hunger and Homelessness Prevention Coalition’s (DHPC) informational booth on Lancaster Walk.

The Coalition members running the booth explained the group’s mission and their focus on serving at the Jane Addams Place emergency homeless shelter for mothers with children. Shania, an international business major, was intrigued and quickly became an integral member of DHPC. Before fall quarter was through, the freshman international business major took on the role of treasurer, with responsibility for the money collected through campus fundraisers.

The money raised and then overseen by Shania is ultimately used to fund holiday parties with snacks and movies for the children at Jane Addams Place. Serving the children in the shelter is the most rewarding aspect of being a DHPC member for Shania. “The kids are really friendly and not reserved. They’re very happy to see new people,” she says.

In addition to direct service to the homeless community, raising awareness is a primary tenet of the DHPC mission. “Philadelphia has such a high homeless population. We’re working on letting people know just how large it is and helping them think about what they can do to help. But even just making people more aware helps,” explains Shania.

A recent DHPC-sponsored screening of “Destiny’s Bridge,” a film documenting life in a tent community formed by a group of homeless people in New Jersey, brought the producer and several of the film’s subjects to campus. The screening was well attended and Shania believes it was beneficial for students to see that the cast didn’t fit many of the stereotypes about homelessness.

Before discovering DHPC, Shania had joined the LeBow BRIDGE learning community. Her passion for the cause has rubbed off on some of her fellow BRIDGE members and inspired them to join. Advocacy and service work is one of the reasons she signed up for BRIDGE, so she says it’s no surprise that there’s overlap. And ultimately, it’s these connections with like-minded, interesting and motivated people that makes her involvement in both organizations so valuable.

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