Working boring nights in Anderson Hall has shown me there are still community outreach programs that are actually successful. Like clockwork, the lobby of the building transforms into a bustling marketplace of kinship each night.
After 6 p.m., Dottie Jewels begins selling jewelry and other unique figurines, down the hall from Noah Nature, who will give you a bag of popcorn that will change your life. From the tantalizing fragrances and shea butters to the photos and CDs, no one need leave empty handed.
But the camaraderie in the lobby is just the tip of the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program iceberg. Monday through Thursday nights, 1,100 students are enrolled in 85 classes.
“Almost anything you can think of, we offer something that’s linked to it,” Director Yumy Odom said.
Boxing, yoga, health and diet, wing chun kung fu, mathematics, GED programs and religion are all here.
“There is a great age range coming from all over the city. There are even folks coming [to Philly] from New York to D.C. just for one class,” Odom says.
And although trying to rummage through the waves of kids after a long day is tiring, I admit that PASCEP’s youth program is arguably one of the best today.
Some wonder how Odom does it.
“It’s not even a secret. I got a call from someone trying to do some rites-of-passage programs with youth, and wanted to know why our youth programs are so different. Not that others are not good, but you can tell our youth from anyone else’s youth in the city,” he said. “I like to tell people that we create students and scholars, while other programs create clients and cattle.”
When the founder, Annie D. Hyman, created PASCEP as a grassroots organization in 1975, she founded this unique philosophy of relations, which is still a cornerstone of the program and gives it the zest to stand out.
Without even mentioning the outreach work PASCEP is doing in the community, the program as a whole is an amazing feat, considering there are only two paid employees and about 10 volunteers who are doing the work of a full-time staff. But a lack of people isn’t the problem. It’s the location.
“With the faculty, volunteers and the staff, there are a hundred of us, so really we don’t have enough space,” Odom says humbly. “But it works out because they sit in here [at their eighth-floor office], or they sit out in the hallway, or in the lobby.”
This doesn’t seem right.
PASCEP is Temple’s premiere community outreach program, which it ought to take a lot of pride in and give abundant resources to. But still there is talk of downsizing.
After downsizing once in 1995, the administration wants to move the program yet again into two offices off campus. So, it’s no wonder that there have been a lot of concerns about the future of the program.
“They might mean well,” Odom said. “But the issue is what it looks like to the community.”
Jena Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.