Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Chair By The Door: Reflections on the Alumni Panel

SJP alumni relax in Palmer Square
By Marion Smallwood (SJP '07 Alum/UPenn '12)

Today is one of my favorite days out of the whole program. I sat in a workshop with Ryan Lizza, super-star New Yorker political reporter. I looked up to see SJP alumni from as far back as '05 pouring into the room, taking seats on the floor and sitting Indian-style on the floor. They shined their smiles and then immediately tuned in. It must have been reminiscent to have been back in that room, listening just as eagerly as they did as students in the old days.

They all arrived today for the alumni panel. Roughly 20 of us gathered in an auditorium, prepared to drop some knowledge in the student's heads about college, financial aid and SAT prep. After all, we all occupy some of the best colleges and universities this side of the coast. Who has a better brain to pick? (not cocky, honest!). That's just the kind of person SJP pushes out into the world summer after summer.

The students nervously engaged us with questions about rising SAT scores, transitioning from high school to college, university visits, scholarships and pure, undiluted experience. This is why I come back every summer. To inspire, encourage and mentor these students the way I was when I was in the program. SJP is so much of the reason I am where I am today. I only hope to create a fraction of the change SJP has made in my life, in the lives of one of these students.

We concluded the 'family reunion' with ice cream from The Bent Spoon and coffee. I must admit, I was a little heartbroken as I watched my own class (SJP '07 stand up!) and the class I first had the opportunity to mentor (SJP '09 stand taller!) leave for the Dinky. I may not see them again until next year.

But let's not think anymore about that. I think I'll just continue to sit right here in my chair by the door, read the student's blog posts and write.

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