Posted by: Katherine Primus | November 30, 2009

Dana How Mentors

The Christian Association promotes open minds and working faith.   As I have written in previous “Footprints” columns, an open mind is one that critiques new thoughts and ideas and evaluates their rightness or wrongness with respect to advancing the human condition.  Without open minds we can become stagnant and form pockets of contrary thought making it extremely difficult to live in peace.

A working faith is one where we apply our resources and talents to the change we cannot yet see; the new reality we would like to create.  As Christians we believe that only through open minds and working faith is it possible for people to fulfill the message of Jesus Christ coming together for the betterment of humankind.

People today, particularly young people, are searching for knowledge and understanding to create a way of life within which they can have positive interactions with others and experience personal growth and development.  Our goal then is to provide the foundation necessary for people to create that way of life that includes an open mind and working faith. Our unique programming educates and promotes understanding (theory), and engages people in experiential learning (practice).

A key figure in the long tradition of the Christian Association is one of our former Executive Directors, Dana How.  Dana How served the Christian Association from 1928 to 1958 and is predominately remembered for his support and oversight of the CA’s Green Lane camps. His legacy lives on through the dedicated work of a team of University of Pennsylvania/CA/Green Lane Camp alumni that serve on the Dana G. How Social Service Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation.  This fund has supported our Peacemaking Through the Arts program for several years and have now committed to supporting an expansion to this program, Dana How Mentors.  The goal of this expansion is to develop a high school mentoring program that would celebrate more of the spirit of the camp experiences they feel Dana How should fund.  The program will offer Penn students opportunities for increased interaction with Philadelphia children over a longer period of time and would include some camp-like experiences.

To provide some perspective for you I would like to share how Dana How asked for financial support for the camps almost 70 years ago.  In a fundraising pamphlet, probably from the late 1940s timeframe, he says in part:

“Thousands of little children struggle their way forward amidst the baffling obstacles which surround them in a great sprawling city.  Created in God’s image, they have every potential for loving beauty, appreciating cleanness and creating goodness, but “man’s world” shuts off their chance to romp and play, to dream and sing, to wonder and aspire – those normal childhood activities through which they grow.

“I am hopeful that you will be among those who sense the longing of “these little ones” for something better and will join with us through your gifts in the happy privilege of lifting hundreds out of their hardships and unhappiness and of actually setting them on the road to a new and better world.”

Dana How Mentors will build on that heritage with a viable solution for today.  Philadelphia’s youth will interact with Penn students in ways that will help to “set them on the road to a new and better world.”  More specifically the goal of the program is to create and sustain mentoring relationships between Penn undergraduates and Philadelphia high school students that have the potential for impacting both for good, similarly as the CA camp experiences in the past were transforming for both Penn counselors and children who attended.

Penn students will participate in leadership trainings, including an overnight camp retreat, to train them to be effective mentors.  Part of this training will include developing an understanding of people that are not like you, how to listen effectively, strategic thinking, and how to develop an open mind and working faith.  A key portion of this training will include my strategic thinking expertise that was also referenced at the board meeting.  Through a series of defined activities, including a second overnight camp retreat with the high school students, Penn undergrads will spend time with high school students sharing and learning from each other.  A key part of their relationships will be to mentor the youth in their own personal and professional aspirations, with a focus on higher education.

Key components for this new program include:

• Working directly with underprivileged children in Philadelphia.
• Providing internship opportunities for Penn students that
encourage the development of an open mind and working faith,
emulating the life-changing camp-like experience.
• Continuing development of the mission field of both Penn’s students
and Philadelphia’s children.
• Teaching leadership skills to help students translate ethics and
values into action.
• Partnering with Christian and other faith-based organizations.
• Encouraging self-reflection of all participants.
• Increasing involvement of Dana How committee members, all of whom
are Penn/CA graduates.
• Honoring Dana How and his life of service to the CA.

If you are interested in applying to be a Dana How Mentor please contact us at upennca@dolphin.upenn.edu.

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