Hey! I’m Caylin, nice to meet you. I’m not going to lie, hearing about some of my classmate’s plans for their international, culturally stimulating senior projects gets me a little bit jealous… But in all honestly, I feel that what I’ve chosen to do is the perfect answer for the questions I’ve been asking myself lately. And I took quite a trip even getting to the point where I could hand in any of the required information to T. Cindy (things like location, or topic). Some of my rejected plans include: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, working in an orphanage in Romania, and working on a mustang ranch in Arizona. Each idea didn’t work out for one reason or another (mostly because I am stubborn, have a severe aversion to decision-making, and get silly premonitions about things). But anyways, after all of my friends told me that they were tired of hearing my new Senior Project ideas that were “definitely it this time!”, and T. Steve sent me a few of his “get it together” emails, I sat down with my adviser to figure out what it really was I wanted in a senior project.
That’s when things started coming together. I’m incredibly lucky to have traveled to as many places as I have, and even luckier to be attending a college next year that will allow me to travel to about seven more by the time I earn my B.A. But someone said to me, during the planning process, that “this project is a chance to do something that you haven’t done before.” It feels much more organic for me to stay close to home, and I definitely want to avoid taking a senior project “vacation” at all costs. So, Philadelphia is my location.
While climbing a mountain sounds monumental, and working with mustangs sounds like fun, those things aren’t really what I would consider myself passionate about. It’s always a little awkward for me when I’m asked about what I am passionate about, because my answer isn’t a typical hobby. It isn’t playing music, or food, or writing, or running, or a sport, or theatre. It’s people, culture, stories, and the idea of “collective consciousness” that I like talking about so much. I love the fact that I live in the same city as people who have so many thing to share that I’ve never ever dreamed about, and yet we are still alike in so many ways and have such a vast capacity to learn from each other. It is something that I don’t feel the need to travel to a different country to understand and experience. So, that, in a weird, complicated nutshell, is my topic.
I guess I should explain exactly what I am doing during my senior project. I’m lucky enough to have a connection, through a class I take with students from Westtown and three other schools, with a really cool not-for-profit organization in Philadelphia called Broad Street Ministry. An open-minded faith community, BSM sort of embodies the answer to the questions that have been swimming around my head this year. What is the role of faith in the larger community? What brings people together, or sets them apart? How do you bridge cultural gaps, be they lingual, religious, economical, racial, environmental, or any other? A part of BSM’s mission, and I’m paraphrasing here, is that “we meet you where you are at.” There is no preconceived notion that anyone walking through the ministry’s beautiful doors has any religious experience, background, or beliefs of any sort. They do, they don’t, they aren’t sure- it’s considered extraneous. It’s about providing a service to our city, a place to seek shelter, community, warmth, food, art, and conversation for people from all social classes and backgrounds. It’s about bringing people together and giving them the space to learn from each other and build bridges across these societal gaps. Also, Broad Street Ministry works to raise awareness between people through service. I personally believe that service is the most effective way to put people in a situation from which they learn from others, whether it is from stepping outside of your comfort zone or facing a problem which you hadn’t focused on before.
I asked Liam, the Arts Marshal at BSM and the teacher of the Service Learning class I take there, if I could become a part of the community for two weeks. He accepted, and ever since then I’ve been happily driving into Philadelphia as much as possible, attending whatever events I can get to and slowly getting to know what Broad Street Ministry is all about. When my project starts, I’ll be able to actually start volunteering, doing things ranging from helping with the mail service, to organizing the clothing closet, to attending and helping at Breaking Bread and a No Barriers Dinner.
I think the reason that I am so excited to start my senior project is that I’ve found an organization that I really feel is doing straight-forward, honest work, and just trying to be all that it can be. There is no falseness there, from what I’ve experienced. I am so excited to see that the passion I’ve cultivated, what I would call human interaction, service, and community building, is shared by others in such effective means. It’s going to be really awesome getting to work with Broad Street Ministry and gaining knowledge of Philadelphia from such diverse perspectives.