The University hosted 32 high school students from the North Light Community Center’s teen programs for College and Career Day on March 26. This event was organized through North Light Villanova and gave Philadelphia-area high school students the chance to observe life on a college campus, as well as to learn about potential careers.
North Light’s teens took part in a busy day on campus, attending presentations by the Office of Admissions, the Office of Part-Time Studies, the Center for Multicultural Affairs and University student athletes. Additionally, the students watched a hip-hop dance performance and participated in a campus-wide scavenger hunt.
However, perhaps the most important part of the day was the students’ opportunity to attend classes and job shadow professionals. Prior to the visit, the University sent a list of morning and afternoon classes and job shadow sessions to North Light, allowing students to sign up based on their interests and potential career goals.
Jasmin Berry, a junior at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia, shadowed University employees in the computer science and graphic design fields. Not only did she speak with these professionals about what they do, but she also gained some hands-on experience of her own.
“I designed my own website and learned how a graphic designer works,” Berry said.
In addition to gaining exposure to her field of interest, Berry said she learned many other things throughout the day that will benefit her as she prepares for college.
“I learned that you can’t just pick a major,” Berry said. “You have to know why you want to pick that major and what jobs it can offer you. I learned that [college] is very pricey but there are student loans and scholarships that can help you with that. It’s been very helpful.”
Miya McAfee, North Light’s youth workforce coordinator, said she hoped that the visit would provide students with a more nuanced look at college life and make them think seriously about their future academic pursuits.
“I just wanted every student to get the idea of what it’s like to be on a college campus, to attend a college course and to understand the fact that it’s not like high school and you get out of it what you put into it,” McAfee said. “I wanted them to get that understanding that there is a difference [between high school and college] and decide if this is the type of difference they’re ready for.”
Billy Eisenberg, who is in his seventh year as the director of education and teen services at North Light, claimed this is his favorite day of the year, as it allows North Light to preach its messages of college preparation and career readiness in conjunction with the University.
“It’s so rare and unique,” Eisenberg said, commenting on this opportunity for his students. “You can’t just go to any school and say ‘Hey, I want to sit in on some classes.’ It’s very unique and we’re just lucky to have this. It’s awesome.”
Eisenberg explained that experiencing a college setting is invaluable for his students.
“Whether the kids are college material and can get into a school like Villanova or not, just to have this college exposure could make them more motivated in school or could open their eyes,” he said.
North Light Community Center serves thousands of people each year in Manayunk and the surrounding neighborhoods—both children who need safe and nurturing environments in which to learn and play, and parents who seek counsel and access to affordable services. According to its website, its mission is “to enable people of all ages and abilities in our communities, especially those most in need, to reach their full potential as productive and responsible citizens through initiatives that support and enrich children, teens, and families.”
The bulk of students affiliated with North Light’s teen programs attend Roxborough High School, although other Philadelphia schools such as Benjamin Franklin High School and Northeast High School are also represented.
Although the University has been involved with North Light for decades, its official partnership, NOVAL, was initiated in 2004. Holiday parties, tutoring services and mentoring programs are a few of the elements comprising the alliance between North Light and the University.
“[Villanova] has always been a big supporter of our teen programs throughout the years,” McAfee said. “Over time this has grown from a couple of [Villanova students] who were doing an after-school program for teens at North Light, to now this larger program that not only works with teens who come to North Light but also teens who are affiliated with North Light, whether it be in the neighborhood or in the high schools where we work.”