For Philadelphia-raised students, Temple’s an unfamiliar place

Students from Philadelphia discuss feeling out of place in their home city on Main Campus.

Students at Temple University come from all over the country — and all over the world. But only about 20 percent of students come from Philadelphia.

Programs like the Temple 20/20 Scholarship, which awards $5,000 per academic year to 25 high school students from North Philadelphia, and the Broad Street Finish Line Scholarship program, a new scholarship for first-generation college graduates that gives preference to students from Philadelphia, aim to admit more Philadelphia students to the university. 

But whether it’s admitting more students from the city, educating students about stereotypes or compiling more resources to help them excel in college, some Philadelphia students say the university could do more to make them feel at home. 

Some say Temple is reinforcing a stereotype that students from Philly don’t need as much help acclimating to their new environment. Others said some programming reinforces poor stereotypes about the North Philadelphia community.

“A lot of times, I didn’t feel connected to people because a lot of people that I interacted with were either from [the suburbs] or not from Pennsylvania at all,” said Jaya Montague, a 2018 journalism alumna who grew up in West Philadelphia. “Familiarity, of being with other classmates or people that are from the same place as you, I didn’t really feel that that much.”

The Class of 2018 totaled 7,106 students, including 4,390 freshmen. More than 3,000 freshmen came from Pennsylvania and 681 were from Philadelphia.

Montague attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts in Hawthorne and spent her freshman year at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, more than six hours away.

When Montague lived at the Edge during her sophomore year, resident assistants provided resources to help familiarize new students to the area, but not to students already from Philadelphia, she said.

“They assume, ‘Oh you’re from here, so you should know everything,’” Montague added. “There aren’t really resources for [us].”

Paul Maiellano, a junior finance and economics major, grew up in South Philadelphia before moving to Manayunk in middle school.

Maiellano, 29, went to The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, and joined the Army in 2011 before coming to Temple. As an adult learner, he believes those from outside the city need to understand that there are barriers to success in Philadelphia’s education system that don’t always exist outside of it.

“Two experiences are totally different,” Maiellano said. “Students [from Philadelphia] might not have the same level of education coming into a program as other people.” 

In 2017, Pennsylvania’s educational funding for public schools ranked No. 46, according to a 2017 report by the Educational Law Center. Only 16 percent of Philadelphia fourth graders performed at or above proficient in mathematics based on The National Assessment of Educational Progress standards in 2017, according to the Nation’s Report Card.

These numbers are in stark contrast to suburban Philadelphia schools like Radnor Township School District, which ranks fifth in the nation on Niche’s Best School Districts in America list. 

Codi Royall, a junior political science major from West Philadelphia, felt certain orientation activities and trainings during her freshman year at Temple were insulting to the North Philadelphia community. At the time, Royall lived in Morgan Hall.

“They did [a] sensitivity training about how people in the North Philly community live a different lifestyle than most of the people who come to Temple,” Royall said. “It was so offensive to me. I was so offended for everyone who lives in that area because it was supposed to make people feel sympathetic, but I feel like it just perpetuated all of the stereotypes that people already had.”

Students could even get rid of some of these stereotypes about North Philadelphia residents if they were more educated on street smarts, like how to safely and politely navigate the area, Royall said. 

This could include a training on how to be aware of their surroundings and conceal valuables in public while also being courteous to local residents, she added. 

“Anywhere you go could be dangerous,” said Tynecia Wilson, a junior kinesiology and Spanish major from West Philadelphia. “You can talk about the area as much as you want about how bad it is or how much you don’t like it, but you go to school here.”

Editor’s Note: Jaya Montague is a former columnist for The Temple News. She played no part in the reporting or editing of this story.

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