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“We provide support for students who need a coat, a hair dryer, anything from to ,000,” said Elaine Papas-Varas, senior university director of student financial aid.
She added that the university meets with students about “really personal stuff.” But not every problem can be solved.
“Nobody in a university’s administration knows every student’s experience, and no student wants to shout from rooftops, ‘I don’t have enough tampons!
’ ” said Clare Cadey, director of the College and University Food Bank Alliance at Temple University.
Iris Peron-Ames (left), 14, and Sasha Mannino, 13, in the conference room of Greenfield Elementary School in Center City.
The two eighth-grade girls organized a drive to collect tampons for first-generation, low-income students at the University of Pennsylvania.
The girls were moved after Iris’ mother, Melanie Peron, 44, a senior lecturer in French at Penn, described how a first-generation student had confided to Peron that money is so tight she must sometimes choose between eating breakfast or buying tampons.
Tragically in December, as the three eighth graders planned their campaign, Iris and Sasha’s friend Kalina Brook Kozlowski, 14, took her own life, which redoubled the teenagers’ efforts.
“What prompts people to give is when they understand the need.” In September, Peron had reached out to FGLI.
She said they hadn’t heard of the FGLI program, the first-generation, low-income office at Penn that strives to help students get whatever they need.
First-generation students who were interviewed for this story — all of whom receive substantial financial aid, like other FGLI students — said that program helps in myriad ways, even offering food and textbooks for those who can’t afford them.
Some of the younger students didn’t know what the products were, but their parents, who’d read the flyer the teen collectors had generated, understood what was being requested.
Parents simply told their kids to carry mysterious boxes of products to school, and the children complied, Peron said. John Neary, a Greenfield language arts teacher and mentor for the school’s community service club, acknowledged, “It’s an unusual drive and the students are not sure how it’ll resonate in the community.” Laura Otten, director of the Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business, said she “can’t come up” with another example of young teens helping college students in such a way.