Selena’s interest in the SNF Paideia Fellows Program stems from her devotion to giving back to her community and prioritizing authentic, respectful dialogue as a path to bridging difference. As a Puerto-Rican (Latina) growing up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Selena witnessed overt displays of racism and racial tensions. This experience taught her the value of discourse.
No matter the difference in opinions, backgrounds, or moral philosophies, conversation is the primary remedy to navigating larger–and highly contentious–issues. As I participate in SNF Paideia, I hope to develop the skills, academic understanding, and opportunities to mediate and facilitate important dialogue between others.
Selena is the first in her family to pursue a baccalaureate degree and comes from a limited-income background. She attended a rural high school in Pennsylvania with a large population of students living in poverty. To address the needs of her peers, she cooperated with her high school superintendent and brought in representatives from both local and state governments, including individuals from the offices’ of Pat Toomey and Doug Mastriano, for dialogue. She continues this same effort as Co-Liaison with FGLI DAB, where she works with other students to represent the needs of FGLI students at Penn to the College of Arts and Sciences Dean Sniegowski. Whether it be in high school or here at Penn, Selena feels deeply connected to her familial roots and is committed to improving conditions for future generations everywhere she goes.
Selena’s academic pursuits of criminology and eventually law or forensic psychology is one way she can work towards reducing systemic injustice. She approaches this work with intellectual humility and a willingness to be open and vulnerable. She is interested in reducing mass incarceration, corruption in the privatization of prisons, and generally redefining what justice looks like. She is currently involved in Penn for Youth Debate, through which she is paired with a local high school in Philadelphia where Selena teaches the importance of debate and public speaking. “The ability to articulate an individual’s opinions is imperative to understanding their morals and perspectives on the world. Giving these students the ability to speak meaningfully is empowering, and I want them to feel like they have enough autonomy to advocate for themselves and others. This is a key part of citizenship: active participation and the willingness to exercise your freedoms for a greater republic.”