Top 10 Features stories of 2021

From business start-ups to advocacy, the pandemic brought students, alumni and professors new opportunities to succeed and help others.

Caitlyn Changco, a sophomore business major, gets lunch at her usual spot, The Honey Truck, on Sept. 29. | KAITLYN JEFFREY / THE TEMPLE NEWS

1. The end of ‘normal’: Temple students share last photos before COVID-19

By: Emma Padner 

Nicholas Salerno, fourth from the left, poses with his friends at his 18th birthday party on March 15, 2020. | NICHOLAS SALERNO / COURTESY

After Philadelphia declared its first case of COVID-19 on March 10, 2020, Temple University announced all domestic campuses would end in-person instruction on March 13, 2020. The campus then closed fully until Fall 2020 and switched to hybrid learning for Fall 2021. 

A year into the pandemic, nine students shared how they spent their last day before schools and businesses closed and social distancing guidelines were implemented to limit the spread of the COVID-19. 

Some recalled throwing parties and spending time with friends as their “last hoorah,” while others reflected on how steadfast they were for a return to school in two short weeks. 

2. Temple alumnae form harm reduction project

By: Rosie Leonard 

Jen Shinfield, a field epidemiologist and 2017 Temple alumna, distributes fentanyl testing strips and speaks to individuals about the importance of harm reduction at Love Park on Oct. 27. | GRACIE HEIM / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Drug overdoses rose by 30 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 1,000 people in Philadelphia alone died from opioid use in 2020, WHYY reported

After seeing how the pandemic had impacted homelessness and overdose rates, 

Shannon Ashe and Jen Shinefeld, Temple alumnae, started The Everywhere Project, a non-profit that aims to raise awareness of overdose prevention and harm reduction practices to Philadelphia communities impacted by substance use.

3. Temple alumna runs for House of Representatives seat

By: Ryan Tian 

Alexandra Hunt, a 2020 Temple alumna and House of Representatives candidate, speaks to volunteers and supporters at the launch of her Bike Every Block canvassing campaign held at the bottom of the Rocky Steps at the Philadelphia Museum Of Art on Sept. 25. | ERIC MILLER / COURTESY

Alexandra Hunt, a 2019 public health alumna, launched her campaign for the 2022 United States House of Representatives in Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district in February 2020. 

She plans to use her platform to advocate and provide more opportunities for marginalized people. If she wins, she will become the first openly former sex worker to hold a federal public office in the U.S. 

4. Candlelight vigil held for Samuel Collington in Delaware County

By: Eden MacDougall

Vigil-goers light candles in front of Interboro High School before walking to Norwood Public Library. Friends, family, and teachers were in attendance at the candlelight vigil held in honor of Samuel Collington on Dec. 2. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Samuel Collington, a senior political science major, was fatally shot at Park Avenue near Susquehanna on Nov. 28. Family, friends, teachers and politicians gathered and spoke to honor Collington’s life and the memories made with him at a candlelight vigil held in his hometown at Interboro High School in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania.

5. Mother, daughter bond while running business

By: Sam Sullivan 

Penelope Kyriazis (left), and her mother Virginia Apostolopoulos (right), work inside the Crepe Truck Philly, located on Norris Street near 13th on Oct. 6. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Virginia Apostolopoulos and her daughter Penelope Kyriazis have been churning out sweet and savory crepes for hungry customers inside their food truck, The Crepe Truck Philly, since 2013. 

Due to their extended family lives in different countries, the two cherish their time spent stuck inside the tight quarters of their truck for hours on end and aim to form and strengthen relationships with both each other and their customers. 

6. Couple falls in love working at The Temple News

By: Matt Aquino 

From the left, Natalie Watanabe and Ben Watanabe, sit with their daughters for a family portrait in Hudson, Massachusetts, in Oct. 2020. | COURTNEY HIZEY / COURTESY

While working at The Temple News in 2004, Ben and Natalie Watanabe’s friendship quickly blossomed into love. The two share their relationship’s journey from the confines of the newsroom, to marriage and raising a family together. 

7. Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania leads a healing ceremony for Ambler campus

By: Haajrah Gilani

The Itchy Dog Singers of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania preform songs on the tribal drum outside the Ambler Learning Center on Oct. 21. | AMBER RITSON / TEMPLE NEWS

Temple’s Ambler campus was hit by a tornado on Sept. 1, rendering serious damages to campus facilities and nature reserves, including more than 175 of the campus’ trees, while also stranding 27 students and faculty overnight on campus property.

In honor of the lost trees, the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania led a healing ceremony at the Learning Center quad followed by a group tree planting, allowing the community to process the loss of their trees while encouraging them to remain hopeful for the campus’ future.

8. Body Checkers Productions’ short film qualifies for an Oscar

By: Sam Sullivan 

Chelsey Colosimo, left, a 2014 theater alumna, and Monica Suriyage, right, a 2015 film and media arts alumna, stand on the set of La Ciguapa Siempre in Santa Clarita, California Feb. 21. | BRIAN LEGOO / COURTESY

Four Temple alumnae created an all-female production company in 2016. They create horror films including diverse casts and content. After years of showcasing their work at film festivals, one of their latest pieces, La Ciguapa Siempre, qualified for a 2023 Oscar after winning Best Narrative Short at The Reel Sisters of The Diaspora Film Festival, in October. 

9. Safe Bet use online services to distribute gun locks

By: Kristine Chin

Scott Charles, trauma outreach manager at Temple University Hospital, talks to a person at the Germantown Health Fair on August 25, 2018. | SCOTT CHARLES / COURTESY

About 31 percent of deaths caused by unintentional shooting could have been prevented with gun locks, according to Aftermath, a crime scene cleanup and biohazard remediation company. 

As gun purchases increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott Charles, a trauma outreach coordinator at Temple Hospital, shifted the accessibility of his company, Safe Bet —which provides free gun locks to residents — to online distribution. He founded the organization to prevent unintentional shootings among children. 

10. LGBTQ student organizations hold candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance

By: Eden MacDougall 

Jackson Burke, a junior ceramic major and the president of STAR, stands off to the side while a guest speaker talks about their experiences being a trans rights activists on Polett walk in front of the Belltower on Nov. 20. | AMBER RITSON / TEMPLE NEWS

Forty-seven transgender and gender non-conforming people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means so far in 2021, making last year the deadlieston record for the transgender community, according to Human Rights Campaign. 

In November, students and local residents gathered around the Bell Tower on Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor the transgender and gender non-conforming people killed by violent means in 2021. 

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