Community Action Fellows Virtually Explore the Greater Princeton Community

Tuesday, Apr 7, 2020
by Benjamin Gelman ’22 Pace Center Student Correspondent

“In what year did Trenton get its current name?”

“John F. Dryden founded the Prudential Insurance Company in Newark in what year?” 

“True or False: The first reading of the Declaration of Independence was in Princeton.”

These questions, among others, were recently posed to the newest group of Community Action Fellows (CA Fellows) as part of a virtual scavenger hunt designed to help them bond and learn about the communities and regions they’ll be introducing the Class of 2024 to during Orientation this fall.

Although the fellows would normally work together on campus and visit locations in person, Community Action Program Coordinator Maggie Hussar designed the virtual scavenger hunt as a way for the fellows to get to know one another and build some context for the places they will be in charge of, as they each focus on their studies at home for the balance of the spring semester. 

“The scavenger hunt was done by dividing the fellows into two teams and asking them to use their online resources to find the answers to three separate sections of the hunt, each section unlocked by completing the one before it,” she said. “After completing the scavenger hunt, the CA Fellows are now taking time to think about and then let us know which region they’re most interested in planning experiences for.” 

CA Fellows are a group of undergraduates who are responsible for community partnership development, communications, service-learning activities, and logistical planning associated with the CA region that they manage. CA Fellows also provide mentorship and guidance to the CA leaders within their region, assist with the recruitment of leadership team members, and facilitate trainings. The fellows are advised one-on-one by a member of the CA professional staff.

This year’s fellows include Ryan Cho ’23, from Rockville, MD who intends to study politics; Emily Perez ’23, from Chattanooga, TN who plans to concentrate in comparative literature; Richard Qiu ’23, from Newbury Park, CA who wants to focus on economics; Brendan Tang ’23, from Edison. NJ who also intends to concentrate in economics; and Colten Young ’23, from Trabuco Canyon, CA who is a prospective psychology concentrator.

The recently confirmed fellows also shared some of the reasons why they joined the program. 

“As someone who is deeply interested in community service, the thought of working with a team of like-minded individuals to tackle community issues as well as guiding first-year students through their first few weeks was an idea that convinced me to apply,” said Tang. “It's important that we give back to the community that has nurtured us since we were born, and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same resources and support that we had.” 

Perez spoke about how her own CA experiences informed her decision to become a fellow. “There were a lot of reasons, but mainly, I wanted to be involved in what I believe to be an important part of the orientation experience,” she said. “Being a freshman is terrifying, especially if you haven't been far from your family before, or if you're entering a competitive academic setting for the first time. My CA trip taught me that Princeton students weren't so scary after all, and helped me feel more at home in an environment that was very different from home.”

The CA Fellows’ work is integral to the Community Action program, which is one of three small group experiences during Princeton undergraduate Orientation. Coordinated by the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, CA introduces first-year students to the community at Princeton and the surrounding area.

Through service, students learn what it means to be part of a community, how to grapple with complex societal questions, and begin to develop an awareness of their personal values. Students meet organizational leaders, participate in collaborative projects with local organizations and have the opportunity to expand their understanding of themselves and the world. Previous groups have focused on topics ranging from food insecurity in Trenton to environmental education in the Poconos to educational access in Princeton to the arts in Newark and more.