On Thursday, April 5, Penn students, faculty, and staff braved the unseasonably cold, windy, and chilly weather to share and listen to one another’s stories on Penn’s College Green. This event was organized by the student group Penn Faces, which has been supported by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center since its inception.
Penn Faces is a “project that is the product of collaboration among individuals who came together with the common goal of creating a site to foster resilience and encourage honest conversations. Its vibrant color is a blending of Penn’s red and blue, highlighting both the spectrum and the unity of our experiences.”
The Penn Faces website provides students, faculty, and staff with a space to present their stories to the broader Penn community in the hope of breaking down the expectations of perfection that can be found on Penn’s campus.
The PennFaces Speakeasy is an annual event, organized by the PennFaces Student Advisory Board, that is held to provide the Penn community a space where they can share their stories with a wider audience.
The speakers exhibited strength through their vulnerability while sharing their personal stories of facing setbacks, experiencing loss, finding different paths, and building their resiliency. Here are some of the speakers from the event:
As an audience member, what stood out to me were some common themes that connected the different stories.
- While each person shared their own individual stories of facing challenges, feeling like they needed to hide who they were, or believing they needed to conceal their struggles behind a mask, what made a difference for each person was finding an individual or a community with whom they could speak and connect with.
These ideas spoke to me about the need to find community and make connections here at Penn.
Too often, I can feel like I just really need to zone in and focus on my academic and professional work while I am here, but we all need to make time and space for our personal lives.
We can have a richer, happier, and more fulfilling experience if we can be our whole selves on Penn’s campus.
Further, some acknowledged that every resource on campus is not for everybody and that the first resource you reach out to might not be the best for you.
The speakers touched on ideas that reaching out to others and asking for help is a process, but that when you find the right place, it can make all the difference.
Whether who you reach out to is your friends or family, or a designated resource here on campus, these stories remind us that there are people here who truly care, and that there are people here who may be struggling too, even if they don’t always show it.
The speakers and advisory board hope that one day an event like the Speakeasy is not needed at Penn, because we will all feel more comfortable speaking about our fears, difficulties, and struggles openly in more spaces. For the time being though, PennFaces highlights a real need at Penn for students, faculty, and staff to remove our masks and to share our stories.
If you are interested in becoming more involved with PennFaces, go to Penn Faces to find out more.
For more resources at Penn, here is a helpful guide:
Additionally, here are some other resources students have found to be helpful:
- The Tutoring Center
- Marks Family Writing Center
- Resource Librarians
- Professor and TA Office Hours
- Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
- Your college major Advisors
Wherever you build your sense of community and decide to share your story, ask for help, or to find camaraderie, know that the Weingarten Center is here for you.
By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow