Giving Back: FIRE and the Philadelphia Community

May 13, 2010

As a national organization, FIRE helps students and faculty members all across the country, yet I find it amazing that it is still able to invest significant time and effort into its first home–Philadelphia. I first came to FIRE through a locally based partnership with Drexel University’s Co-op Program, a hidden gem among FIRE’s educational outreach programs. Today, I wanted to give Torch readers a little more insight into this program and thank all those who gave me this amazing opportunity by supporting FIRE.

Twice a year, FIRE hires a Drexel student to work in its Philadelphia headquarters alongside FIRE staff for six months. I feel lucky to have served as FIRE’s previous co-op student, an opportunity that opened my eyes to the world of civil liberties and provided me with a valuable work experience. FIRE co-ops help with day-to-day operations, like thanking donors and keeping track of FIRE’s busy schedule of public appearances, as well as with program-related projects like preparing educational packets for student groups and distributing FIRE’s Guides. Not only did working as a co-op give me real-world experience and an inside look into how a nonprofit organization operates, it also opened my eyes to the ways in which colleges often take advantage of students’ ignorance of their fundamental rights and how important it is that we change that dynamic through education and engaging with administrators.

I am so grateful to FIRE for the investment it has made in me and my fellow classmates, including FIRE’s current Drexel co-op, Olivia–and FIRE’s community partnerships don’t stop there. FIRE’s work has been felt throughout the greater Philadelphia community. Drexel’s Student Liberty Front, a political activist organization on campus, frequently brings FIRE speakers to address the student body and to discuss the university’s “yellow-light” speech code rating; FIRE has hired many students from the University of Pennsylvania as part of its summer Internship Program over the years (including this year!); and FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network is active and vibrant throughout the City of Brotherly Love.

By presenting lectures, visiting with student groups, and welcoming students from local universities to FIRE as part of the staff, FIRE has made an impact on the Philadelphia community. Through the First City Project, FIRE’s presence will soon be felt even more strongly-with the help of dedicated CFN members, FIRE plans to make Philadelphia the first “green-light” city in the country by persuading all of the local colleges and universities to reform their speech codes.

My co-op experience with FIRE was one of the highlights of my college career, and I was absolutely thrilled when FIRE asked me to come back as a part-time employee. It is the donations of FIRE supporters that made this and all of FIRE’s work possible. I hope you will consider continuing to support FIRE’s educational efforts with an online donation today. Thank you!