Category Archives: Alumni Perspective

Penn Alumni Travel: A Watercolor Record

Author: Barbara Seymour, GLA’82

[The author and artist, Barbara Seymour, traveled on a Penn Alumni Travel trip to the "Celtic Lands" this past spring. Some people take photographs on tours. Others write in journals. Barbara decided to record the tour in watercolors. Below is a snapshot of her beautiful memories.]

My travel watercolor kit.

My travel watercolor kit.

As a watercolor painter, I was so inspired by the Scottish landscapes we saw on the Celtic Lands trip.  Since I live in the woods in the Philadelphia area, the open sky, sea and mountains were a new and challenging subject.  I found myself looking for subjects with all these elements to photograph and paint.

In the Hebrides.

In the Hebrides.

Seymour 3

I also loved the changing light and how it affected the landscape, casting shadows over hills and sea.  Clouds became an obsession!

Old ruins and castles make marvelous subjects.

The ruins of an old monastery on the Isle of Iona.  (with iris in bloom and shepherd and sheep!)

The ruins of an old monastery on the Isle of Iona. (with iris in bloom and shepherd and sheep!)

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull.  (with yellow Grouse blooming in the foreground).

Duart Castle, Isle of Mull (with yellow Gorse blooming in the foreground).

I found a spot on Iona that almost reminded me of home: A tiny little path between fields, with a stone wall.

Seymour 6

I found this image of an abandoned fishing boat poignant, suggestive of the ravages of time.

I found this image of an abandoned fishing boat poignant, suggestive of the ravages of time.

Celtic Crosses were everywhere, ancient and new. I also got a chance to paint the little white flowers blooming everywhere in the grass.

Celtic Crosses were everywhere, ancient and new.  I also got a chance to paint the little white flowers blooming everywhere in the grass.

Finally, I chose this old stone bridge, with a very challenging stoney river flowing underneath.

Finally, I chose this old stone bridge, with a very challenging stoney river flowing underneath.

Scotland is wonderfully inspiring for a watercolor painter.  I am not finished with it yet!

[Barbara will be having two Open Houses showing and selling these and other paintings this fall.  All are welcome!  View her website here. The dates are Sunday, November 16th, 2014, 1-5 pm and Sunday, December 7th, 2014, 1-5 pm.   The address is:
Headlong House
307 Moylan Avenue
Media, PA 19063

( 2 blocks from the Moylan-Rose Valley SEPTA train station).]

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Penn Alumni Travel: Unforgettable Galapagos

Author: Liz Drayer, C’83

Darwin and blue-footed boobies.  That’s what I thought when I heard Galapagos, before we signed on for this September adventure.  Then our copies of Origin of Species arrived in the mail, courtesy of Penn Alumni Travel.  Wow, I thought I’ve never cracked this historic volume.  Now’s the time.  I made it through Chapter One before resorting to Evolution for Dummies.  But no problem – Professor Michael Weisberg filled in the blanks once we arrived.

The fun began when we boarded the National Geographic Endeavor, with its first-rate facilities and staff who catered to our every need.  How many times had I tried to win this exact trip on the Jeopardy sweepstakes?  With less than seventy guests, we were able to get to know everyone during the course of the week.  You can’t help but make friends nestled “cheek to cheek” in the Zodiacs, the motorized rafts deployed daily to ferry us to the islands.

Each morning began with a wakeup from Carlos, the ship’s master of ceremonies and naturalist extraordinaire.  Then it was off to explore the island du jour, each with unique topography and endemic species of animals and plants.  We practically tripped over iguanas, nursing sea lions and glittering Sally Lightfoot crabs, all oblivious to our comings and goings.  The naturalists’ encyclopedic knowledge deepened our appreciation for all we saw, and we marveled at Brian, our videographer/stunt man, who scaled precipices barefoot to nab the perfect shot.

“Scaly” is not a four-letter word.

“Scaly” is not a four-letter word.

Our shipmates made the trip special – a diverse group of all ages and backgrounds.  The wide-ranging activities offered something for everyone.  Snorkeling with sharks and sea turtles.  Scaling volcanic formations.  Kayaking and glass bottom boats.  Magnificent vistas and sugar cane farms.  And my personal favorite, the Galapagos Tortoise, those plodding kings that once thrived on the islands, now bred by researchers hoping to restore their prior glory.

America’s next top model.

America’s next top model.

We wound down each day in the cozy library, sipping cocktails and watching the cottony clouds waft across the horizon.  Evenings featured local cuisine and music, barbeques and crossing-the-equator parties.  A highlight of the trip was the excellent lecture series featuring Penn’s Professor Weisberg, that left me craving the classrooms of Bennett Hall.

These island getaways are exhausting.

These island getaways are exhausting.

We capped off the week with a day in Guayaquil, fraternizing with reptiles that hang from the trees in Iguana Park.  We marveled at yellow-jerseyed fans streaming into the soccer stadium, arriving at ten for a four o’clock game.  Ecuadorians take their football seriously….

Huge thanks to Alyssa D’Alconzo, Director of Alumni Education, Travel, and Career Networking, for organizing this fabulous trip.  Nothing sums up our nine days like Carlos’ favorite superlative:  Fantastic!

*Liz Drayer is an attorney and writer in Clearwater, Florida.  Her most recent short story, Crashers, appears in the June 2014 issue of Prick of the Spindle literary magazine.  Her email is edrayer@tampabay.rr.com.

[If this blog has inspired you to travel with Penn Alumni Travel, visit our full 2015 schedule here. We will be returning to the Galapagos in 2015 with the tour Machu Picchu to the Galapagos, December 1-15, 2015.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Locust Walk Talk: Renewing the dreams of past glories

Author: Casey Ryan, C’95

Many of you may remember my blog entry over a year ago where I shared with you the story of my rugby team, Philadelphia Gryphons, working on going to Australia, (Locust Walk Talk: What Penn’s Taught Me After Graduation). The anniversary party was only the beginning of this trek. We were able to reinvigorate our alumni and our current players to work together to create that important network of support to bolster the team and to implement new programs.

Good Game

Good Game

The club has implemented seasonal boot camps for new and interested players to learn some basic rugby skills in order to introduce them to a scrimmage with the veteran players at the end of the two hour camp. The board has institutionalized our first Saturday socials, which typically are social gatherings at our sponsor bars to increase the team’s visibility among the community and city; we supplement bar nights with outings to rugby tournaments, marching in Philadelphia’s Pride Parade, and hosting viewing parties for European matches to flesh out our calendar for the year. The fall season will be the Gryphons’ inaugural season for our new recruit/veteran mentorship program. We have initiated Alumni Days, for the first match of the season, to increase attendance at our games. Finally, the Gryphons are working to establish both a day to give back to urban youth and to regularize a Founder’s Day celebration to commemorate the team’s anniversary.

joe and tony

Gryphons at the Anniversary: Joe, GEd’14; Tony, Gr’13; and Marc.

Due to this diligent work, we were successful in getting ourselves off to Sydney – raising over $15,000 to help defray some of the costs of the trip.  Starting yesterday, twenty-one Gryphons, supporters, partners and spouses will start making their way down to Australia for the Bingham Cup. With Anthony Chieco, Gr’17; Joe Ciesielski, GEd’14; Phil Cochetti, C’06; Joe Cruz, C’97, CGS’04, GEX’12; Chris Hatfield, CGS’02; Ted Panczyszyn, Penn staff; Dan Stringer, NU’13, GNU’16; and myself, over a quarter of the team and support staff going to the tournament has a Penn connection. In short, very little of the Gryphons’ success would have been possible without the team’s collective Penn experience.

phil

More Gryphons at the Anniversary: Phil, C’06, and Ken signing the team ball for the raffle

Personally, the Gryphons have been a huge labor of love for me – helping me maintain the work/life balance that we strive for. The team has taught me leadership, patience and perseverance. Most importantly, it’s been the source of several amazing friends over the years – especially during the times in life when it’s typically more difficult to make new ones.

Marching in Philadelphia Pride

Marching in Philadelphia Pride

And speaking of new, you also may know that I am leaving Penn. I’m graduating from my tenure at Penn to go over to University of the Sciences, about 9 blocks southwest of Sweeten House, as Director of Alumni Relations. Founded in 1821, University of the Sciences is a leading science and top pharmacy college in Philadelphia. In fact, it is America’s first pharmacy school. While I’m leaving Penn, I won’t be too far and, as an added bonus, USciences’ president is a proud Penn alumna, Helen Giles-Gee, CW’72, GEd’73, Gr’83. In addition, another teammate of mine, Greg Wallace, PCP’14, is USciences alumnus and I’ve already been cultivating him to return to reunion weekend this year.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 rules social media. Anthony, Gr’17, was the 1000th person to LIKE Bingham Cup Sydney 2014. From the Facebook page, “From the looks of it Anthony plays hard! An official Bingham Cup ”Play Hard” T-shirt is coming your way mate!”

It’s been a pleasure sharing my Penn experiences with you as a staffer over the last two and half years. I have already promised to work on my reunion as my 20th comes up in 2015 and I will be joining the Penn Club of Philadelphia. When I settle into my role at USciences, I will approach the interview program about helping out. Lastly, I have promised our communications staff that I will post quarterly on the blog as an alumnus.

10541869_10101314991153987_136477005752798542_o

#tbt, Sydney 2005

In the meantime, feel free to check up on my trek through Australia – Perth to Syndey – via stops in Hong Kong and Bangkok at https://tagboard.com/CJinOZ/183930#featured.

This tournament is getting major media attention in Australia. Here are two South Sydney Rabbitohs, brothers Sam and Tom Burgess, who have backed the Bingham Cup and have called for an end to homophobia in sport in Australia. The Rabbitohs are partially owned by Russell Crowe.

Truly Red and Blue,
Casey

Me and Lex Ruby Howe, C’07, WEV’09, WEV’10, GEd’12, my favorite Aussie at Penn. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Casey R., Leaving Penn, Lex. H., Locust Walk Talk, Penn Club of Philadelphia

Penn Alumni Travel: ANTARCTICA: FEBRUARY 9-23 2010

Author: Martha Barron Barrett, G ‘68

[The following are memories from a Penn Alumni Travel trip Ms. Barrett took in 2010 to Antarctica.]

These excerpts are adapted from my recently published travel memoir: Slow Travel: Two Women of a Certain Age-and Modest Means-Leave Home.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2010  Marriott Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires

Photo 1

The bus tour of the city was fine. We used our room service privileges again–just like the movies of my youth.

(Sandy Lawson, my partner and the photographer, and I had been in Argentina since January 1. After selling our winter home in 2007, we had spent each January, February, and March traveling independently: New Zealand, South Africa, now Argentina. This would be our first tour.  The Penn brochure with a sleek ship, the Deluxe M.S. Le Diamant, floating in an ice-littered sea had arrived Memorial Day weekend.  Monday after our guests left Sandy and I agreed this tour had everything we ever dreamed of.  Tuesday morning I was on the phone to Thomas Gohagan Tours reserving a stateroom to Antarctica.)

We are to be downstairs at 5 a.m. to grab coffee and a snack, then it’s into the air southward. To the ends of the earth, as I wrote to the family. Indeed. High Adventure. At seventy-seven.

FRIDAY M.S. Diamant Room #303

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

I strode between rows of white-suited sailors toward an open door. A tall, handsome young man with sufficient braid to be the captain shook my hand and said, Welcome. Inside someone pressed a warm washcloth into my hand–which I found still there when I entered our cabin. A queen bed under two big portholes. I was delighted.

Others had informed us that the passenger lists had only three from Penn and one of those had canceled because their flight was caught up in the Philadelphia snowstorm. So much for the notion of “alumni groupies.” The economy is worse than anyone is letting on.

Outside Le Club, one floor-deck-up, we tried on gift parkas …

At dinner, Sandy and I, the bewildered first-timers, were gently moved toward a partially filled round table of six, to be soon joined by Nicholas, our Russian leader who had told us at the briefing to knock the adjective “soft” off the word “expedition.”

The menu let us know what we would be having for the various courses: soup, salad, fish, meat, dessert. Bottles of wine, French, of course, hovered and we chose either red or white; thereafter our glasses were never empty. Sandy commented on the amazing efficiencies of the huge staff of waiters who presented the food, impeccably, at the perfect temperature, be it hot or cold. …

With a seasickness patch pasted firmly behind my ear, I dropped into a dead sleep.

SUNDAY  Southern Shetland Islands, Sunrise 4 a.m.  Sunset 10:50 p.m.

Noon position Deception Is., where I set foot–both–on the ashy sands of Antarctica, the last or lost, continent.

Wind: Nil force 0

Sea: Calm

Air Temp: 2C (36F)

Water: .5C (33F)

Landings: Baily Head 1:50 p.m. and Whaler’s Bay 4:30 p.m.

Photo 6

Photo 7

Photo 8

Photo 9

Instructions by the voice of our tour guide drilled through the PA system into our room. At 1:40 he finished with the Green Group and started into the Yellows (us), screwing into our heads the idea that we simultaneously must hurry and suit up yet not arrive in the club lounge too early. I tried to be methodical. Life jacket. How the hell does this thing— Yellow Group! Yellow Group, go to the club. Blue Group, get dressed.

The hall was empty.  Blue group, go to club now.  Dear god. Sandy and I ran down the hall, up two flights of stairs, through the blur of red and out onto the landing. Yellows. We slumped in sweaty relief. No one looked calm. My mouth was dry as a bone.

The line shuffled forward. ID swiped. A flight of perhaps twenty-five white metal steps, railing on both sides, so many things to consider: steepness in these untried boots, grip of silk gloves on railing, plastic tub of disinfectant at the bottom step, rope guide across to the outdoors, and another flight down to the Zodiac. I could see there were two men helping people step up on the side of it and two more inside helping them down. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Okay. Down. Too slow-keep up. Now. Step up. Grab those strong wrists. Down and in. Sit. I reached back and gripped the rope looped along the side. Takeoff might be rough.

Nothing was rough. Not the trip over, not getting out with two competent arms on the other side to steady me. Not walking up the rise. I planted myself like a flag and gazed around at the largest rookery of chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula: some 200,000 who stood like small figurines arranged from the black sand beach to the high ridge. …

Boots in hand I entered Le Club and was handed a cup of hot beef bouillion.

MONDAY off Gourdin Islan

Photo 10

Photo 11

I suspect my remaining life will be divided into pre- and post-Antarctica segments.

Our evening expedition took us out into the ice pack where I actually disembarked the Zodiac to stand on the flat surface of a “table” ice floe. It was moving with the sea and rotating, and the ice pack was thickening; the horizon resembled a city of white and gray block buildings, a nature city. But we are not residents, merely red penguins tromping about on this temporary bit of real estate, taking photos for alumni magazines, driving snow golf balls, shouting like kids at recess. Like the sea the ice will bear no memory of our passing: wind and snow will quickly cover every trace.

TUESDAY Noon Livingston Is.

Photo 12

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 16

Mountains tower beyond a shingle beach. The sky’s responsibility is special effects and it puts on a great show. I could have sat there for hours.

The walk this afternoon (single file) was probably a mile in black sand along the side of a two-thousand-foot high dune. I could not raise my eyes for fear of slipping. We met a line of Greens marching our way and I happened to be first in line. Should I take a step up or take a step down?  I stepped up; at least someone would have a chance to grab me on the way by. I made it without falling, but also without grace.

WEDNESDAY    Wilhelmina Bay 

Photo 17

Zodiacs. These sturdy, inflatable hard-floored boats have become my favorite way of seeing the shore, up close where my aging eyes could catch the details without having to watch my footing every second. We happily putted along the shore, the guide giving fascinating details about the snow algae and birds and seals. We were riding across the surface of their dining table that held their live eats: fish, krill …

Just finished a room service dinner American style. Our earlier lunch had been a surprise! What a scene for a “barbeque” of sirloin with twenty other dishes. I had two glasses of wine and one of our pastry chef’s beyond-this-world desserts.

THURSDAY Port Charcot 

I feel like a molting penguin today, helpless until my protective coat is restored.  It is about nine-thirty and the ship is deserted. I crave the familiar and silence. This hour up here in the little library surrounded by books, lulled by the orderly passage of time, is untangling knots and loops.

Outside icebergs roam. A small one with the head of a seahorse rides like a forgotten toy in a fancy pool. Inside, a jolt when I see on the stairs men of color on their knees furiously polishing every inch of brass. For me an unresolved enigma. Shouldn’t I be helping?

LATER. Probably overload happens on tours of art, architecture, and poets-of-the-lake-district too-and not only to the elderly. And maybe us older folk have a viewpoint on all this stark and ancient scenery that surpasses the value of what a forty- or fifty-year-old sees and feels. More kinship with the eternity presented by this vast and ageless land.

FRIDAY  Neko Harbor

Photo 19

Photo 20

A nook of perfection stashed off to one side of a fjord lined with sheer ice-covered mountain ridges.  Everyone (including Sandy) trudged on up the slope. Penguins, as idled by the sun as I, stood silent on ice patches or in run-off streams like retirees cooling their feet on a too hot Florida day. Creaks and groans issued from deep inside the glacier.  A penguin came and stood beside me.

SUNDAY  Beagle Channel 

Placid seas allowed us to land on Cape Horn and I stood atop this storied island gazing toward Antarctica: a fitting exclamation point to a journey to the bottom of the globe. The trip had not been about the ship, the food, the people we met, but what lay over the horizon. Even when I was actually looking at it, or walking on it, a sense of disbelief hovered. What mind can conceive of the earth’s rotation slowing and slowing until it disappears? Who believes in zero?

Photo 21

 

[For more information about Penn Alumni Travel and our entire 2015 schedule, click here. Although we will not be traveling to Antarctica in 2015, we will be journeying to Patagonia and Cape Horn, January 21-February 7, 2015. Click here for more details.]

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Penn Serves LA Strikes Again; This Time With Paint

By Leanne Huebner, W’90

Over thirty Penn Alumni and their children joined together for a fun beautification project for El Nido Family Centers in Mission Hills.  We were thrilled that Elizabeth Fields, Julie Gutowski and Kiera Reilly from the Penn Western Regional Office joined us. And we welcomed special guests in town from campus Penn Professor David Grossman, Ph.D., Director, Civic House and Civic Scholars Program, and Katie McCarthy from the Penn Development Office, both lending their painting skills for good.

All in all, the team completed the center’s foyer, a key event room, as well as a hallway in bright white.  The highlight for many participants was contributing to a full wall-sized canvas mural alongside the Pacoima mural artist.  Volunteers brought together her vision for a grand-scale masterpiece to add cheer and interest in the center’s main lobby area.

Stuart Berton, El Nido Board President and Wharton ’61 graduate, thanked the team and provided a great overview of the important work of El Nido, a nonprofit that has served Los Angeles for 89 years.  Each year, the centers reach over 11,000 Los Angelenos  through its community outreach, early education and teen pregnancy initiatives, and gang-prevention programming.  While many individuals come to the center, El Nido social workers are also in the field meeting individuals and assessing families in their homes and schools.

Penn Serves LA's Jane Gutman with El Nido's Stuart Berton

Penn Serves LA’s Jane Gutman with El Nido’s Stuart Berton

A few highlights of their work were shared.  For instance, their GRYD program for gang-prevention has experienced success rates of up to 98% working with at-risk youth.  Their teen pregnancy recidivism rate is 80% lower than the national average, with only 4% of teenage mothers they serve having a second child before they turn twenty years old.

Penn Serves LA's Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

Penn Serves LA’s Leanne Huebner is thrilled with the event.

“We are excited to help El Nido with such a great, enthusiastic group of volunteers,” shares Jane Gutman, CW’73, PAR’14, PAR’16, one of the Penn Serves LA Directors and coordinator of this event.  “And to have David and Katie here from Penn lending a hand makes our day of brightening the facility with fresh paint all the better.”

View all the photos from the day here.

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The entire group poses to celebrate a job well done!

The next Penn Serves’ event will be Saturday, August 9th from 9 a.m. to noon and you can reserve your spot here.  Penn will be serving LA Waterkeepers in an effort to help identify the impact of debris on our area’s water supply.  “It’s a great opportunity for your science-minded side as we will be surveying and collecting valuable data,” shares Christine Belgrad, W’87, PAR’15, PAR’17, event coordinator.
Many of the past Penn Serves sell out, so please reserve your spot quickly.

Read about our past events:

December, 2013 – Holidays are a Time for Giving

November, 2013 – Sending Holiday Warmth to our Troops

August and September, 2013 – Serving the Environment and LA Leadership Academy

May, 2013 – One on One Outreach

March, 2013 – Habitat for Humanity

January, 2013 – Inner City Arts

September, 2012 – The Midnight Mission

June, 2012 – Turning Point Shelter

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Family Programming, Guest blogger, Penn Serves LA, Photos, Uncategorized, Volunteering, West Coast Regional Office

Penn Club of San Diego Goes South of the Border for Street Eats

By B. Bea Rajsombath, C’99, club president

There are a lot of great things about living in sunny San Diego, including over 70 miles of beautiful coastline, the nice Mediterranean climate, pockets of diverse neighborhoods with their own vibe, mountains or beaches within miles of each other, great restaurants and bars, its proximity to Tijuana, and so much more.

The Penn Club of San Diego works on creating events and activities that feature the neighborhood gems and life in San Diego; events any of our alumni can appreciate, whether they recently moved here or are returning natives.

In November 2013, the Club joined Turista Libre for a wine tour in Valle de Guadalupe. Based on that successful and fun adventure, we had requests to organize another event south of the border. As Turista Libre (TL) focuses on organizing tours highlighting the local aspects of Tijuana and surrounding areas, we worked with them to deliver another event for our alumni. Passports in hand on March 22, Penn alumni and friends met up with TL at San Ysidro, the last US stop before reaching Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego. We were joined by a few other TL guests to walk across the border to board a small school bus operated by TL to start our adventure tour: TJ Street Eats.

Penn Alumni and friends

Penn Alumni and friends

We started our day with a birria taco from a busy food truck stationed on a non-descript street by a Staples. It was simple, yet bursting with flavor. A cheese quesadilla was offered to our vegetarian guests. The tacos were so delicious most of us wanted more, but we were advised by TL to limit ourselves to the one because we had a number of stops to make. A few of us couldn’t hold out though and had to try a second taco.

A birria taco

A birria taco

Our second stop was at Kokopelli’s food truck, for black Harder ceviche de lenguado tostada. Our vegetarian guests feasted on grilled Portobello mushroom tacos. At this point, more guests were losing their willpower to hold off on just one item and explored some other offerings from Kokopelli’s. A few also ventured to try a seemingly, innocent pink-colored salsa…and suffered through the burning from a habanero-beet mixture. TL also offered up some Tecate beer for refreshments before we headed to our third stop.

A tostada

A tostada

Before we reached Tio Pepe, a wonderful bottle of tequila was shared. Some of us are still searching for the bottle on this side of the border. Tio Pepe is a neighborhood gem with plastic tables and chairs, friendly staff and a bustling lunch crowd. I would love to go back…if I can find my way there! Here, we sat down to enjoy Guadalajara-style torta ahogadas, a few rounds of Corona and some ventured off to order additional tacos. I don’t know where they found room.

Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada

After indulging ourselves, we still had two more stops! The next was at Tepoznieves, an artisan ice cream parlor with more than 100 flavors. Unfortunately, I was too busy sampling the flavors and enjoying my selection of three small scoops to capture any photos to share. On the way to our last stop, another bottle of tequila was brought you to be shared. Finally, we made it to Baja Craft Beers for a sampling of house brews. We essentially had the place to ourselves so early in the afternoon. The brewery had great space and a long list of local and international beers available.

Baja Craft Brewery

Baja Craft Brewery

Alas, our great little adventure came to an end by 5pm and TL returned us to the border to make our way back across to the US. We definitely enjoyed our TJ Street Eats tour and working with Turista Libre again. We already have requests to repeat both the wine tour and the TJ Street eats.

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

These are just a few of the activities and events the Penn Club of San Diego organizes for local alumni in the greater San Diego area. If you are interested in learning about these and other events, please contact us via email, join our email listserv, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Our next event is a yPenn Happy Hour on July 10th. We hope to see you there!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Food Fiends, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos

Seattle Alumni Put on Aprons for an Evening to Help Alleviate Poverty

By: Haley Shapley, C’06

Thanks to a little help from the Penn Club of Seattle, at least one person will be able to transition from the streets to a job in the hospitality industry.

It was all part of Guest Chef Night at FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for homeless individuals in Seattle. Since 1992, FareStart has provided opportunities for nearly 7,000 people to transform their lives, while also serving more than 6 million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.

The tables are set for FareStart's Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

The tables are set for FareStart’s Guest Chef Night, with Penn Alumni Club of Seattle members as guest servers.

Each Thursday evening, prominent guest chefs come to work with the students as part of their 16-week food-service program. The three-course meal is served by volunteers, which is where Penn alumni came in.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening's menu.

Chef Sam Hassan explains the evening’s menu.

Although none in the group had any restaurant experience to speak of, on April 24 we got a crash course in the art of serving, learning the importance of checking back within two bites, refilling waters regularly (and not touching the rim of the glass!), and how to properly carry a tray. Chef Sam Hassan of Maple Falls Cafe provided a tasting of the Mandioca Frita, NW by SE Pasta, and Mango Raspberry Cobbler beforehand so that we’d be able to answer questions about the ingredients when guests inquired (Just what is yuca? Ask us; we know!).

The featured servers tonight - the Penn Club of Seattle!

The featured servers tonight – the Penn Club of Seattle!

Penn Alumni getting trained

Penn Alumni getting trained

Six hours, countless pitchers of water, and a few cramped fingers later, we’d served 169 diners, raising a total of $7,116 for FareStart’s training programs, including donations of $181 and tips of $1,327. All in all, it’s more than enough to give one student safe housing, the full 16-week culinary program, and comprehensive wrap-around services.

It's a full house.

It’s a full house.

The program has a 90 percent job placement rate within three months for students after graduation, and each Guest Chef Night includes a graduation ceremony with those who’ve completed the 16-week program successfully. On our night, we watched two grads get ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, including Tina, who didn’t miss a single day. “It’s made me stay focused instead of every day wondering what’s going to happen,” she said.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Rupi Sureshkumar, Maria Seredina, and David Blum watch the graduation festivities.

Bob, who moved to Seattle in July with a big plan that fell apart, was equally grateful. “I thank this program; it really rescued me,” he said. “I learned a lot and I appreciate it. This program is ingenious to solve the problem of homelessness and poverty.”

Bellies full of delectable ingredients like shaved Parmigiano, smoked fish, and Chantilly cream, we scattered into the night back to our respective homes — energized by the experience and humbled by the fact that we made a contribution, however small, to the students being able to have homes to return to as well.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Penn alumni enjoy a hard-earned meal at the end of the evening.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos, Volunteering