CAMPUS PHILLY: Giving a LIFT In and Out of Prison
Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series of high-achieving students who are engaged with the city and region in impactful ways, made possible through a content partnership with Campus Philly.
Bridget Kiley is tearing up Philadelphia and leaving a trail of kindness in her wake. The Villanova University
senior spent last summer working at LIFT
, a community resource center in West Philly that works to expand opportunity and combat poverty on a personal level.
While there, she learned to evaluate the ways she wants to help others and developed a positive attitude that helps her in all her other endeavors, from tutoring an inmate at Graterford’s maximum security prison to guiding 22 incoming freshman into ‘Nova college life as an orientation counselor. Whether spreading the word about LIFT as a member of the Villanova Service Counci
l or starting a Harry Potter Film Week as part of the Campus Activities Team, Kiley throws herself into everything she does with a smile on her face.
West Hartford, CT
School and Year:
Major: Criminal Justice
; Psychology and Philosophy minors; Ethics concentration
LIFT, Villanova Days of Service, Service Council, Wildcat Ambassadors, Literacy Program tutor at Graterford Prison
cooking, swimming, running, Irish dance, hanging out with friends
How would you describe yourself?
I’m loud? (laughs). I really like to stay busy. (Pause) Oh! My friends would describe me as a cat-lover! I have cat earrings in my bag right now. I’m random, if you can’t tell. Puns are the best.
What made you choose Philly?
My cousin went here (to Villanova) and I came to visit her for a Lil’ Wildcats Weekend. I was looking for small liberal arts colleges; I didn’t really know what I wanted. I came in as a math major! But it’s very community-organized here. I applied early-admissions and found out about my acceptance while I was clicking around Novasis. I “wung” it and found the right place.
How do you explore the city?
I explore Philly through a variety of ways. I’ve come in to Philadelphia for formals with Villanova, support the Campus Activities Team events [in] Philadelphia, I am running the marathon in Philadelphia in November, participated in The Color Run this summer, and generally travel in to Philadelphia via Septa or driving. Most recently, I attended a Philly4Philly event at Smokin’ Bettys which was great exposure to different organizations inspiring movements in Philly.
How did you get involved with LIFT this past summer?
I actually [was supposed to have] had an internship with the Attorney General’s office. I went to the career office bawling because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to go to law school. I really like helping people and helping people find out about the resources available to them, even if it totally bores my friends (laughs). So Kevin Grubb, who works in the career center
, referred me to idealist.org. A senior last year did LIFT, and she said how awesome it was, so I went in for an interview.
What type of work did you do there?
I worked from 9 to 5 twice a week. I had client meetings for an hour each where I would take in their information if they were new and started working on their projects. I made fliers for pound cakes that one client was selling. I would write referrals for professional clothing
. I even helped one man fill out his DD-214, a record for military benefits.
What do you want other students to know about LIFT?
Just how awesome the people are! They are underprivileged, living in poverty, but they are just like everybody else. I hate to use the word “eye-opening” but I am so much more aware of what’s going on at the moment now. It’s not just that they can’t get a job, this person can’t pay for utilities—that’s what’s important right now. They come in and say ‘I want to accomplish this, but I don’t have the support.’ That’s where we can help.
You also tutor at Graterford Prison, what’s that like?
When you go, people don’t necessarily want you there. It’s really not as scary as people would have you believe. The people there just never have the right environment, there are some lifers in there. The inmate I tutor didn’t know what it is like to go to college, to have a major and things that seem so basic to me, but I’m helping him get his GED; he never even finished high school. I’ve learned a lot about the prison system and just dealing with uncomfortable situations. The man running the program is retiring soon and I don’t know what will happen to it but I really, really, really want it to continue.
So what’s next for you?
Seriously, I’m going to see where life takes me. I had always wanted to know my path; I was a very anxious person. I applied to Teach for America; I’m getting very passionate about educational inequity. I was turned off to law for a long time; my dad is a medical malpractice attorney and he works very hard, but lately I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m really interested in law.’ Working for a big firm, where I could help make an impact on as many lives as possible, is my ambition for my future.
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