Temple welcomes local faith leaders for breakfast
The event was part of the university’s ongoing effort to connect with stakeholders in the community and build relationships.
On the morning of Monday, May 23, leaders from the local faith community convened at Temple for a breakfast at Shusterman Hall. The event was an opportunity for many of these stakeholders to connect with Temple President Jason Wingard for the first time, and the two groups discussed ways that they can collaborate to best support each other and the community.
The university invited leaders from churches, synagogues and mosques located in North Philadelphia near Main Campus. Some, like the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street and Bright Hope Baptist Church on 12th Street, have enjoyed an ongoing relationship with Temple. The university plans on building similar relationships with other institutions in attendance, like the North Church and their newly welcomed Pastor Jamond Jimmerson.
“Temple has a long history of reaching out to key community stakeholders, and neighboring faith leaders have been a part of that effort,” said Valerie Harrison, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion. “This breakfast was an effort for them to get to know the new president, to hear from him, to know him as a person, to know his heart and to understand his vision.”
President Wingard spoke about his personal history with Temple, which began with him playing in summer basketball leagues hosted by the late coaching great, John Chaney. Wingard also spoke about his family, including his wife, who he met in college, and their five children.
The president was then interested in hearing from the faith leaders in attendance about the challenges they face, and how Temple can be a partner in addressing their concerns.
“We work on community issues in a variety of ways, but one important way is partnering with individuals and institutions that live in the community or that operate out of the community,” Harrison said. “This was a part of that ongoing process.”
The leaders in attendance praised Temple for the efforts the university has already made to establish connections with the local faith community.
“I have cell phone numbers for Temple administrators,” said Reverend Darron McKinney Sr. of Bright Hope Baptist Church. “If I need something, or if we want to collaborate on something, it’s not like I have to sort through a laundry list.”
Jimmerson complimented the university for its student involvement, and he said he was impressed to see students on the blocks surrounding his church cleaning and engaging with the community.
Harrison said Temple plans on regularly meeting with local faith leaders, so that both groups can collectively address issues they will face in the future.
Andrea Swan, director of community and neighborhood relations in the Office of Community Affairs, plays an important role in maintaining an ongoing relationship with the local faith community. She distributed packets to the attendees containing information about programs and services that are offered to their constituents.
One of those programs is the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program, which offers adult enrichment classes on topics ranging from financial literacy and foreign languages to hair braiding.
The packets also outlined information about youth engagement opportunities Temple offers to middle and high school-aged students, such as summer camp programs.
“We also shared information about this office, and how it was created to be a gateway between Temple and the community,” Swan said. “One of the things we do is connect external stakeholders to Temple, whatever the need is.”
She said her office works with local institutions on donation efforts like Thanksgiving and back-to-school drives, as well as providing event space and recruiting volunteers to assist with projects.
“This is a really valuable group of stakeholders,” Swan said. “They connect families to their faith, and Temple can be supportive on so many levels whether it’s employment opportunities or supporting a church’s summer camp.”
Harrison added that connecting with local faith leaders also supports the university’s mission of enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion.
“A diverse student body, a diverse faculty, a diverse staff. Everyone is enriched by that. Along with other community groups, these faith-based leaders are in a unique position to help us reach our diversity goals.”