Almost two years after the impact of National Student Partnerships in Pittsburgh inspired him to push for branches in Philadelphia, Senator Arlen Specter was recognized last Tuesday when he visited with the Philadelphia West office of NSP.
Specter’s visit had nothing to do with partisan politics or national security. Rather, NSP invited the senator to recognize him for everything he’s done to help the group. A portion of NSP’s funding comes from the federal government, something owed in part to Specter’s support.
“When you find people with determination, gusto and a plan, that’s the kind of the thing the federal government should be helping out,” Specter said.
The Philadelphia West branch, part of the Penn State Cooperative Extension, draws its employees mostly from the University of Pennsylvania. Last Tuesday, however, the branch hosted NSP employees from all Philadelphia locations. According to AmeriCorps representative Molly Petherbridge, the city has had 85 volunteers since 2003.
Temple’s ties to the organization are strong, and almost the entire North Philadelphia branch is made up of Temple students. Two students, Jake Yeager and Ashlee Janiszewski, along with Professor Emeritus Cy Rosenthal of the Center for Social Policy and Community Development and its director, John Trudeau, founded the branch in the summer of 2003.
NSP claims to be the only year-round service organization run by students linking people with “the resources and opportunities to become self-sufficient.”
NSP was founded by college students in 1998, and continues to operate centers for people in need. Philadelphia has three – the West and North offices and a branch in the Northwest maintained by students of LaSalle University. North Philadelphia’s branch is located at 1415 N. Broad St., in the Progress Human Service Center.
Since the Philadelphia branches first opened in 2003, their programs have served 400 clients. One of the clients, Anthony Hoggard, who cried as he shared his story, tried other organizations before turning to NSP to find a job.
“They’d said ‘We will always support you.’ After about six months I was history to them, in so many words,” Hoggard said. “There was a time that I’d given up on the opportunity that I’d ever get a job.”
For Hoggard, NSP is a place where “you can establish camaraderie.” He also praised the organization, the volunteers and the senator for giving him the opportunity to find a job.
“Here, it’s all about individuals. Other places I was just a number. Now, I’m on the verge of becoming the color commentator for LaSalle Basketball,” Hoggard said. “I owe it to you, Senator Specter, for giving this opportunity … and for that I thank you.”
William Yu, co-founder of the Philadelphia West office, told Specter about everything he’s learned from NSP, and how it changed his life when he came to America as an immigrant at 6 years old.
“My parents always taught me that as an immigrant I would have to work twice as hard to succeed,” Yu said. “Now I’ve learned that not just me, but everybody NSP serves needs to work twice as hard to succeed.
“NSP is the reason I studied public administration at Fels [Institute of Government at Penn] instead of becoming a doctor like my parents wanted me to,” Yu said.
Other speakers were also clear about how important NSP was in their lives. Na’eem Sultan, a member of the Philadelphia Northwest branch’s advisory committee and executive board, said he didn’t have to think twice about speaking at the event.
“We can’t thank [NSP] enough. For helping NSP coming into this area, I can’t thank the senator enough,” Sultan said. “This has brought a renewed spirit to the community.”
Speakers kept Specter’s personal battle with Hodgkin’s disease relatively quiet, and the senator made no mention of it. Hoggard, however, did express his concern for the senator who announced his affliction on Feb. 16, just four days after his 75th birthday.
“We here at NSP support you every step of the way because you’re certainly a champion in my mind, body and soul. And to NSP, you, senator, are truly a champion,” Hoggard said.
All speakers made optimistic comments about the organization. Speaking for all NSP representatives present, however, Sultan offered a positive message for the group and Specter.
“We thank you for coming out. Thank you for helping in the community. It just shows there is hope, and next time you come we can have this room packed,” Sultan said.
Christopher Reber can be reached at email@example.com.