Every Tuesday and Thursday during the past school year, I sat at the corner of 39th and Spruce streets and waited for the 42 bus. I rode down to 57th street with my friends in Penn for Youth Debate and hopped off the 42 at Hamilton Middle School. As volunteers, we taught middle and high school students about public forum debate and hosted tournaments for them on Penn’s campus.
Through volunteering, I have met Penn students in every year and spent time with them at barbeques, study breaks and dinners. We chatted on the bus while we traveled, and we learned to communicate without talking in the classroom. One of us led and asked questions, while the other wrote on the board. We discussed topics like cyberbullying and health care policy, as we worked to instill skills that we’ve found crucial to our own education.
Each week of my first year at the Wharton School, I was reminded how lucky I am to be in a city that is my classroom. I taught the students about note-taking and refutations, and in turn they helped me to constantly improve my presentation and large-group-engagement skills. While they were learning what questions they should ask to clarify information for a debate topic, I was learning how to guide and empower others. Whether we were comparing the merits of one brand of chicken to another or critically analyzing the nuances associated with different shoe brands, we taught each other invaluable lessons and shared lots of laughs.
Before coming to Penn, I assumed that I would only learn in the classroom. I never imagined that the leadership and logic skills I learn every day in the classroom would be so applicable to my work in a middle school. At Wharton, we focus on evolving beyond a world of theory and morphing our knowledge into pragmatic solutions. I enjoy volunteering and believe it is important to the community. I also value the experience because it allows me to grow. So, I am thankful that I am involved in the community and have the opportunity to extend my work beyond my own classroom and into another.
I actively work to experience the city and all it has to offer when I am at school. Through volunteering, I expanded my education outside of the Wharton classroom. By teaching debate, I honed my leadership skills, ability to thrive on a team and critical thinking. The journey between 39th and 57th streets was about more than transportation; it embodied the spirit of practical application and open-minded thinking that flourish at Wharton. I love that I can be part of the greater Philadelphia community.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post first appeared on Wharton Undergraduate Program’s Student Voices blog on Apr. 30, 2015.