I’m from North Philadelphia. I have Philly in my bones, and I know it like the back of my hand. I was born and raised there. My family wasn’t opposed to traveling to places like Florida, New Jersey, and North Carolina, especially if there was family there. But no matter what, we always made our way back to Philly.
I went to John B. Stetson, a middle school just right off Kensington and Allegheny. If you’re not familiar with the area, there’s an opioid epidemic that’s been going on for decades. This neighborhood is a hot spot for drug dealers and those who buy from them. You’ll most likely find someone shooting up on the sidewalk or homeless people squatting in tents.
North Philadelphia isn’t known for its glamor, and I was, unfortunately, exposed to a lot as a kid. The fact that my middle school was smack dab in the middle of a drug epidemic meant it wasn’t all daisies and sunshine. I don’t believe any kid should have to pass drug dealers to get to school. But that’s not all that Philly is. There’s so much more. Philly is filled with good, hard-working people. It’s filled with families, children, and music. It’s filled with art, love, and education. There’s so much my home offered me. I got to college because of where I’m from.
Stetson was the first school to push me in the direction of the college. I was connected with Philadelphia Futures, a scholarship program that helps students get to college. This program continued through high school, and their support stretches through college as well. If it weren’t for Philadelphia Futures, I would never have heard of Arcadia.
Arcadia University is a partner school with Philadelphia Futures (or Futures, for short), and that means that Arcadia, alongside other institutions, gives out scholarships specifically for Futures students. This allowed for more students in the Philadelphia area to be able to afford college, alongside receiving academic and emotional support throughout high school. Futures encourages high school students to go on college tours. I was lucky enough to have visited Arcadia 3 times prior to attending, once in my sophomore year, and twice in my junior year. Little by little, I started to envision myself here.
One thing I loved about Arcadia was its proximity to home. I wanted to be close enough to visit but not close enough to commute. I love Philly. It will always be a part of me, but my heart was yearning for a new adventure.
Even though I knew I wanted something different, it was definitely an adjustment. Navigating the city may have come with its challenges, but it was my home. After school, I’d spend hours in downtown Philly. With nothing but 20 dollars and a SEPTA transpass to my name, my friends and I would split a large french fry platter at the nearest Chinese restaurant. We couldn’t afford much else; we were just a bunch of city kids. There were times when we’d sneak into a garage building near our school and climb to the top to get a view of the city. There was something about being at the top of the world with your friends, all while sharing a plate of fries, that just made you feel alive. I miss those days dearly.
When I moved to Glenside, it was different. Everything was different. The urban jungle I was accustomed to became this peaceful meadow. I almost felt overwhelmed at how different it was from where I grew up. I was surrounded by grass, trees and lovely sunrises. I didn’t know a single person, since most of my friends went to a community or inner-city college close to Philly. I was the only one who decided to attend a 4-year university. It was daunting, and it’s easy to feel left out when all your friends can still see each other, and you’re stuck an hour away.
Nevertheless, I fell in love with Arcadia. It has amazing opportunities in communications, which is my field of study. It offers emotional and financial support that allows me to attend school worry-free. It allows me to be seen as a gender-queer individual, something I don’t get at home. It gives me the resources I need to thrive as a student. I’m forever grateful for where I came from. I’ll always be a city kid at heart, but this meadow isn’t half bad either.