Around the corner from Temple’s Office of Community Relations, community members are sitting in desks, working toward earning their GEDs.
It’s a task in which Andrea Swan, director of the university’s Office of Community Relations, has played an influential part.
The Office of Community Relations, located at 1509 Cecil B. Moore Ave., is Temple’s main point of contact for community members, with residential, nonprofit and legislation constituents. The office meets with homeowners and tenant associations, block captains and leaders of housing projects around the area on a regular basis. The office also takes walk-ins in the office daily to answer questions about Temple’s work.
Swan is a native Philadelphian who wanted to go to Temple since she was 11 years old. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1998, a master’s degree in 2011 and is now working toward another adult and organizational master’s degree.
Swan doesn’t call those who live around Temple community members or locals—she always addresses them as “our neighbors.”
“It’s wonderful that Temple is an option for our young people,” Swan said. “But it’s so important to share with our neighbors, with the 45-year-old mother, who has two years [of college] under her belt and say, ‘You can come back to Temple and finish your degree.”
Swan spent 13 years away from Temple—when she was working for the Mayor’s Licenses and Inspections office as a public relations consultant. She even met her husband through Temple.
“Temple is so much ingrained in me, it’s such a part of my life,” Swan said. “Wherever I go, I don’t care what the topic is, I discuss the history of Temple University.”
Swan serves as adviser for Temple’s chapter of National Council of Negro Women, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Temple University Community Service Association. She is also a point of contact for students who are looking to get involved with community service and connects them directly with nonprofit organizations.
She also frequently organizes service to volunteer at houses of worship like Berean Presbyterian Church with the student organizations she advises.
“These relationships are ongoing,” he said. “It’s like any other relationship: you love people, you may have tension but you’re always going to keep it moving. We’ve had some neighbors who have had some concerns about recent happenings, but those issues are addressed and put aside, because there are other issues to address.”
Swan described a community member with whom she had a conversation. They discussed her concerns with the stadium, off-campus student issues and a collaboration with Temple students and her church.
“These are multi-faceted relationships,” she said. “At the end of the day, these relationships have been years in the making and we work together for a variety of topics.”
“We work together,” Swan added. “And even if we don’t agree, we still respect each other and work together.”
One of Swan’s proudest works include the Big Brothers Big Sisters work with Philadelphia schools. There are about 120 students who go weekly to surrounding schools to meet with their “littles.”
“She is quite amazing. She is still my mentor to this day,” health sociology 2008 alumna Bianca Augustine-McClendon said. “She’s an amazing, positive person. She’s always there to support me. And it’s not just for me, I’ve seen her there for others and how amazing of a person she is inside and out.”
Augustine-McClendon grew up at 12th Street near Lehigh Avenue. She earned her master’s degree in health administration from St. Joseph’s University, which she partly attributes to Swan’s encouragement to continue her studies.
“She’s always a ‘You can do it!’ person,” Augustine-McClendon said. “I see the drive she has to give back to the community, to give back to Temple students. She doesn’t just work at Temple, she reaches out.”
Swan’s “willingness to always succeed” is what helped Augustine-McClendon push past adversities she faced during her college career.
“The ‘community’ part of her position really speaks for itself [because of] her always wanting to reach out and appreciate everyone around her,” Augustine-McClendon said.
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.