Birthplace of Independence

<h3>Two students in Temple's record-breaking freshman class take charge of their first year in Philadelphia.</h3>
Photography By: 
Joseph Labolito
Video By: 
Gina Benigno, SMC '12
Story by: 
Kate O'Neill
Video Production: Gina Benigno, SMC '12
The 1940 Residence Hall dorm room shared by Cassie Semyon and Mary Cosentini, both Class of 2019, is typical of most college students. The walls are decorated with posters of musicians, photos of friends and a row of vintage 45s. Coupons for local restaurants are pinned to the minifridge; their beds are made with colorful duvets. But Semyon and Cosentini, like their fellow members of the newest class of Owls,are anything but typical. 
Temple’s Class of 2019 is one of superlatives. It is the largest and among the most diverse classes at Temple, and students have the highest high school GPA and highest ACT and SAT scores of any class in university history. There are more Honors students in this class than ever before. And more members of the Class of 2019 graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. 
But the Class of 2019 is, of course, more than just stellar statistics. It’s Philadelphia native Levan Alston Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps and enrolled at Temple on a basketball scholarship. It’s Jessica Ilogho, originally from Nigeria, who is studying neuroscience because she “wants to figure out the whole human race.” And it’s Semyon and Cosentini, who are taking charge of their freshman year.

Cosentini and Semyon grew up in Old Forge and Moosic, Pennsylvania, respectively, where they attended rival high schools and knew of each other but didn’t actually know each other— until they discovered they’d both been accepted at Temple and decided to room together their freshman year.

The two young women, who have different passions (Semyon, a media studies major, wants to be a multimedia journalist; Cosentini loves math and music), were attracted to the university for different reasons. 

“I was interested in the [Media Studies and Production] program,” Semyon says, “but the attention I was given by professors when I visited made me really want to come here.” Assistant Professor of Instruction Amy Caples spent over an hour with Semyon and her family, answering questions and showing them the studio. “That she would dedicate her time just to me...after that I knew this is where I wanted to be.” 

  • Cassie Semyon (left) and Mary Cosentini (right) attended ESPN 'College GameDay.'

Cosentini wasn’t so sure. Her much older brother attended Temple, but she didn’t consider it an option until her senior year of high school, when she decided she wanted to attend college in a city. “I’ve lived in this super-small town my whole life,” she says, “and I’ve visited San Francisco and New York, but Philly is a world of its own.” 

“There is so much going on here right now,” Semyon adds. “The pope was here, we have an amazing football team, and the Democratic National Convention is coming. People forget about Philadelphia and how amazing it is culturally and artistically. Everything is happening right here, right now.” 

Since they arrived in the fall, the pair has taken full advantage of everything the city has to offer. “We went in head first,” says Cosentini.

If you like the city, if you're willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone...this is the place.
-- Mary Consentini, Class of 2019

In their first semester they visited the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum; ice skated at Dilworth Plaza and scavenged for treasures at Franklin Flea; caught a glimpse of the pope; appeared on national TV during College GameDay; people-watched in Rittenhouse Square; attended concerts at venues across the city; and ate many a crepe in Reading Terminal Market, among other adventures. 

“Temple is the best of both worlds,” says Cosentini. “We can ride the subway into the city, but it also has the benefits of a college town with all that fun college cliché stuff.” Fun college cliché stuff for Semyon and Cosentini included pep rallies and football games (they attended almost all of them), a trip to Six Flags organized by the Main Campus Program Board, and free movie screenings and lectures.
“We’ve been spoiled by all this opportunity and things to do and see,” says Semyon.


But their first-semester experience was about much more than painting the town cherry. The two have also harnessed the power of Temple’s academic excellence. 

Semyon, who came to Temple knowing she wants to be a multimedia journalist—Barbara Walters is an idol—spends at least 10 hours a week volunteering for TUTV, where in her first semester she gained experience assistant directing, editing, filming, producing and writing. “I go out with a camera and film,” she says, “and then come back to the studio and edit and put it online. It’s such a gratifying feeling to see what you’re working on actually become something. When I tell people what I do as a freshman, they’re like, ‘That’s amazing.’ Temple is a very hands-on place.” 

Cosentini, on the other hand, didn’t have a specific career or major in mind when she entered Temple. “I’m undecided,” she says, “but all of my professors are so passionate, and Temple has so many opportunities for me to figure out what I want to do.” And she has—she plans to declare a computer science major this spring. 

The two agree that Temple and Philadelphia have surpassed their expectations. “If you like the city, if you’re willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone—in a good way—this is the place,” says Cosentini. “If you told me a year ago that I would have been doing all of this, I wouldn’t have believed it.” 

“It’s been totally life changing,” says Semyon. “The opportunities at Temple to find out what you want to do are endless, and so are the resources. It’s a great place to grow up and figure out who you are and what you like to do.” Their future plans include visiting the Mütter Museum, hitting up every concert venue in the city and going to the top of City Hall.

“There’s still so much to be done,” says Semyon. But for her and Cosentini, never stopping is just the start.