A fun new civic engagement opportunity right on campus | The Triangle

A fun new civic engagement opportunity right on campus

With the weather getting warmer, many of us surely want to start spending more time outdoors. You may just want to lounge around in the sun, or you may want to do something more physically active. Running, in particular, is quite popular on our campus. Whether you just want to jog casually or are looking to train for a race, it’s not too hard to find other people on campus who are just as enthusiastic about running as you are.

Now what if we told you that you could take part in civic engagement just by exercising on campus? This isn’t hypothetical — you can. Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that uses running to motivate shelter residents to make positive changes in their lives, just launched its newest partnership with the Veterans Group house in Powelton Village. Every BoMF partner shelter has a team of volunteers who meet near the shelter at least once a week to go running with the shelter’s residents. Each team’s regular runs take place at 5:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Prior to this month, the closest BoMF team to Drexel’s campus was at House of Passage, a women’s shelter on the unit block of North 48th Street. A handful of Drexel students, including a couple of us on the Editorial Board, have gone running with the House of Passage team in the past, and we certainly understand why not many of our peers wanted to join us. Running a mile and a half to the shelter and back in addition to the 2-3 miles we typically ran along with the team was a bit more of a workout than we wanted on some mornings, and we didn’t always feel as safe running that deep into West Philadelphia before sunrise as we would have felt if we only ran on campus. Because the Veteran’s Group team meets at Drexel Park, it’s much safer and more convenient for Drexel students to participate in this effort.

Running with BoMF is rewarding in ways you may or may not expect when you first start doing it. Sure, you probably expect to feel better about yourself for waking up so early to exercise and spend some quality time with people who have had some bad luck in their lives and been marginalized because of it. What you might not expect is that the shelter residents can inspire you as much as you inspire them. Some of them have pretty epic stories to tell, especially the members of the new team on campus, as they’re all veterans. It can be refreshing to hear about the challenges they’ve faced and how resilient they are through it all. Oftentimes it helps us to see our own problems from a different perspective, to realize that the seemingly daunting challenges we face as students are actually pretty small. On top of that, there are also some running-related perks, such as opportunities to register for certain races for free.

Because the Veterans Group team is brand new, it still needs a lot of volunteers to join. We now have the privilege of being able to join a BoMF team without having to travel beyond our campus to reach it. We understand how unpleasant the thought of waking up early when you don’t have to for class or work can be; those of us who have done it didn’t always feel like doing it. Just remember that the whole team is in it together.