Triple S Show Student Spotlight
Hi everyone! My name is Isha Reddy, and I’m a freshman at Wharton, and a Strategic Planning and Communications intern here at Penn University Life. Working for University Life, I get the unique opportunity to highlight some of the amazing cultural and student life events at Penn, as well as feature the exceptional students behind them through our Student Spotlight series.
A couple of weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to interview sophomore Harley Haas and learn about her experience working with the Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention Club to organize the first in-person Take Back the Night event at Penn since 2019.
Today’s spotlight features Zaria Franklin, a senior in the College who has been actively involved with Greek Life at Penn. Zaria has been part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority since 2019, surrounded by like-minded women with a purpose to serve their communities and build lifelong bonds along the way. Apart from this, Zaria is also the Chairperson of the Step, Stroll, and Salute show, also known as the Triple S Show, which is a competition between several chapters in the Intercultural Greek Council. The Triple S Show aims to highlight the history and significance of stepping, strolling, and saluting in these organizations, which take root from African American Greek life, allowing students of color to share part of their culture with the Penn community.
Given the major incidents of racial discrimination that this country has faced in the recent past, Penn’s multicultural Greek community continues to act as a strong support system for its minority students. The show aims to address the stereotypes surrounding these organizations and educate the wider Penn community on the impact they make on those around them. As the chairperson, Zaria liaises with Janae Tucker, the Intercultural Greek Council (IGC) and Triple S Show Advisor, as well as with her co-chair Jason McCleod to make sure the show runs smoothly. Behind the scenes, she ensures that all teams are well prepared for the show, that enough staff is available on the day, that the event is well marketed, and much more.
It was certainly challenging for Zaria and her team to organize the event after 2 years of facing COVID restrictions and logistical issues, but she is extremely excited to finally bring it back to Penn. New and improved, this year’s show features stepping, strolling, and saluting, unlike previous years’ which only included stepping. Further, the unique theme for this show is sure to make it an exciting and nostalgic one. Each competing team was asked to pick one of their favorite childhood movies as the theme for their act and incorporate it into their performance. If that doesn’t get you excited for the show, I don’t know what will!
This year’s Triple S Show is set to take place on Saturday April 30th, at 7 PM in the Irvine Auditorium. With over 10 teams performing, you can lend your support by purchasing tickets and cheering them on in person. But you don’t have to stop there, make sure to attend their ‘The Block Gives Back’ donation drive and cookout the day before, as well as the free after-party following the show for some delicious food, great music, and a good time.
Until next time,
Triple S Show Questions
How long have you been involved with Greek life and why did you choose to join a sorority?
I have been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated since Fall 2019. I joined to be a part of an organization whose purpose is to serve their communities and build bonds with like-minded women.
What exactly is the Triple S Show?
The Step, Stroll, and Salute show is a competition between chapters in the Intercultural Greek Council. It is important to our chapters given the history and significance of stepping, strolling, and saluting in our organizations.
Why is it important to the Penn and Greek life community?
Given that we attend a predominantly white institution, it is not often that we get a chance to show parts of our culture on a big stage in front of the Penn community, Greek life community, and the greater Philadelphia community as well. We are excited to share something that is important to us.
What does your role as Chairperson of the Triple S Show entail?
As Chairperson, I do a lot of behind-the-scenes work along with Janae Tucker (Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, Associate Director of Diversity & Co-Curricular Education) and my co-chair Jason McCleod to make sure the show runs smoothly. We make sure that all competing and exhibition teams are prepared for the show, that the show is properly advertised and marketed, that we have external staff in place for the day of the show, that all teams have a fair chance at winning, etc.
Do you work with a team/other Penn organizations/sponsors to organize this?
Yes! Janae, Jason Mcleod, Luz, and Jenny have all been a big help with this process. I am very appreciative of them.
What challenges did you face when organizing this event?
One of the biggest challenges was the change from just having a step show to a step, stroll, and salute show. In addition to emerging from COVID, there were a lot of things that we had to figure out logistically.
What are you most excited about during this year’s show?
I am most excited about seeing each team’s theme come to life. This year, each competing team was tasked with picking a movie that we watched as kids as the theme for their show. I can’t wait to see the incorporation of these movies.
How can students get involved in the event?
Students can get involved by buying tickets for the event! There is also a can drive taking place and we are donating to a community organization, The Block Gives Back. Students can attend our cookout the day before the show (all proceeds are going to the Block Gives Back). There is also an after-party after the show (free of charge) and food will be served!
Student Spotlight: Xandro Xu
If you don’t already know, I am Carola Agostini, a freshman here at the University of Pennsylvania. My goal, with the help of University Life, is to show the real college experience at Penn and to showcase the bright students that make this place so special. Recently, I interviewed Aditi Singh, a bright young woman who overcame very difficult circumstances and found herself after getting lost. If you are interested in reading Aditi’s story you can check it out here.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I interviewed yet another bright young student named Xandro Xu. Midterm week was particularly difficult for Penn students, especially those in the Psychology department. As I took brief breaks between studying, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a poster for events happening in the incoming week. The list was titled QPenn week. Interestingly enough, I was coordinating an interview with Xandro Xu to discuss the planning of this event, but since I was focused on my midterm, I had scheduled it for the following week. It was Wednesday, March 23. I just took my midterm, and I revised the event list for QPenn to see if I could report on a specific event for the interview. Then I saw there was an ice skating event that very night. An idea brewed in my head, “What if I interview Xandro at the ice rink?”
To be completely honest, I thought he would decline my proposal because it was so last minute. Little did I know that two minutes later, he responded to my email by saying yes to the interview.
I was shocked, to say the least, but also very excited. At night, I went to the ice rink and had the pleasure of interviewing Xandro Xu.
Xandro Xu is a Chinese freshman here at Penn. He works with the LGBT Center, and he is a Vice Chair of Education at Lambda Alliance, an umbrella organization of the LGBTQ+ affinity groups for queer students. In that role, he is tasked with the great responsibility of organizing QPenn, a week of events, to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community presence on campus. When speaking to him at this event, I could tell just how passionate he was about representing and fighting for this community. I could also tell just how important this event was for him and his team. They were all very welcoming, and I could tell how much effort they put into making QPenn a success.
Xandro and I come from very different backgrounds, but I found I could relate to a lot of what he was saying. I think a lot of people would benefit from learning from Xandro mainly because he is unapologetic about his background. Despite feeling difficult to express himself and his sexual identity, he was able to not only come to terms with who he is, but be proud of it. That, to me, is not only honorable but brave. We also had a meaningful conversation on the concept of trust. I’m sure we are not the only ones who have experienced this, but trust can be a very tricky thing. Our families encouraged us to not trust anyone for a variety of reasons. Particularly, as a student from an underrepresented community, it can be very daunting to let your guard down in the face of uncertainty or intolerance; however, during our talk, we both agreed it is necessary. As humans, we need to be able to trust, to have friendships and to love, because that’s something we deserve. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy because we are not machines meant to be perfect, unemotional, and merely productive — we are human.
Another thing that I noted whilst talking to Xandro was how he valued spontaneous outings with his friends as the best times he’s had on campus. He very much reminded me of all the memories I made since coming here: the multiple adventures and laughs made on a whim. That is what the Penn experience is and should be. Penn is hard, don’t get us wrong. We are not saying you shouldn’t study, but the Penn experience should be more than that. Your time at Penn should be about growth and connection. Moreover, what makes Penn special is not the academics or the aesthetics, it’s the people. It’s the people, as Xandro says, who go on spontaneous strolls down Locust Walk or make you laugh after a long day. It’s especially those people who support you unconditionally. Thus, like Xandro suggests, there is nothing wrong in giving up one or two hours of studying to have a fun time. Who knows what could happen. Maybe you meet your soulmate. Maybe you’ll have a night that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. What you should learn from Xandro is to be open-minded and open to the possibilities, be unapologetically yourself, and fight for the things you believe in. That is what the Penn experience is all about.
Before I sign off, I want to extend my gratitude to Xandro Xu for this interview and welcoming me to this event with open arms. I can report the event was extremely fun, even for an island girl that can’t skate. I also strongly recommend that everyone look forward to and attend next year’s QPenn as a way to support and uplift the LGBTQ+ community in our campus.
Until next time,
- Tell us a little about yourself, how did you come to join the center, and what do you enjoy most about being part of the community?
- First thing about me is that I’m Chinese. Growing up in a very small town with little diversity, I found that being myself in terms of my sexual identity was a bit hard initially. It was hard because, in most cases, immigrant parents are intolerant to such matters in regards to the LGBTQ + community. Initially, my parents were not very happy with me coming out as gay. However, I’m very lucky that I have such loving parents that really thought it through and said “this is my son and I love him exactly for who he is”. I’m really glad I have such a supportive family. Regarding the LGBTQ+ community at Penn, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of right away. In high school, I didn’t really have the chance to advocate for this community as much as I wanted to due to the fact that my school was very homogeneous. So I was very happy that I could do that at Penn, and it was something I knew I wanted to do.
- What work do you do with the LGBT center?
- I am a program assistant in the LGBTQ+ center, basically, it’s a front desk job where I help people find their way and use our resources. I also work by providing confidential and unconditional support to students that come to us for help. I also help with a collective to promote minorities through works of art.
- What is QPenn? What is the purpose of this event?
- QPenn is a week designed to really celebrate, uplift, and amplify the LGBTQ+ community on campus. It is a week to show the presence of the community on campus, to say, “this is who we are and here we are.” QPenn is the week to bring underrepresented minorities to light.
- Why did you choose to organize the event this year? What was your goal for this year’s QPenn?
When I first came to Penn, I was very interested in joining the Lambda Alliance, which is an umbrella organization of different LGBTQ+ affinity groups on campus. I participated in a pre-orientation called pinnacle and one of the group leaders was an officer for Lambda Alliance, which motivated me even more to join. Thus, I joined Lambda Alliance and during the fall semester, I ran for the board position of vice chair of education. Historically, this position is responsible for organizing QPenn so that is how I fell into the role.
As for the planning of the event itself. It was great. However, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding whether it would be possible due to the COVID-19 restrictions at the time. We didn’t start planning it until February, at which time we were certain the event could be held. Obviously, with such a huge event, we would’ve loved to start planning sooner, but the circumstances did not allow for it. What made this event possible was the teamwork. We delegated tasks to each other, and we were able to work together to pull this off, for which I am immensely grateful. It was really important to us that this event was held because it is the first QPenn in three years. Our goal was to bring QPenn back and to hold it in person, even if it wasn’t as big as it was in previous years. We wanted people to know that this is a week and that it’s an event everyone should look forward to. I also want to mention that as a freshman, I feel like I learned a lot not only about planning but about the older folks in the community. Getting to know them while planning the event helped me understand how things work behind the scenes and I’m really grateful for that opportunity.
- How was it planning this event? What were your main takeaways and what do you hope students learned or obtained from QPenn?
- Planning this event was hectic, but also very fun. Again, I think the main reason why this event worked was for the team behind it. It was really heartwarming to meet so many people willing to collaborate to make this event a reality and also to see such initiative from them. Something that I learned from this experience is that planning should’ve been done a little earlier, but due to the circumstances it was obviously not the ideal situation.
- Which was your favorite event from QPenn?
- I really liked the opening event; we had people perform and speak, it was a great vibe to kick off the week. We had a great turnout. Apart from that, I also liked today’s event because it seems like a grand gesture. We decorated the whole ring and we even have an inflatable in the back. I love ice skating, so I think this is a fun gesture for the community and it’s one of the events I’ve liked most so far.
- What is your fondest memory from your time with the LGBT Center?
- I’m not very good at remembering things, but I would have to say my fondest memory is the staff meetings. This is where the staff, the director and the assistant director come together to talk. I like the sense of community and talking to people, so that is what I cherish the most.
- What is the best piece of advice or the most valuable lesson you have learned while working with the LGBT Center?
- I would say be really open-minded, empathetic and understanding. This is because you never know what someone is going through and as workers in the center, our job is to help people. If we were to assume things, we would have a very skewed view of situations. So definitely a valuable lesson is to approach things with an open mind.
- What advice would you give future planners to make QPenn even better? Any ideas?
- Something that I did that really helped with the planning was the delegation of certain roles. Initially, I was stressed about QPenn because I thought I would have to plan this whole event by myself. But again, building a community and a group of peers that are there to support you is really important. This not only allows for a creative flow of ideas but also builds that sense of community that QPenn really is all about. Just really seek out help because it’s an event that can’t be done by one person. Another tip I would give to future planners is to seek out the community, allow for other cultural resource centers to help and spread the word. Finally, I would just suggest you give yourself ample time to plan QPenn.
Student Spotlight: Aditi Singh
I am Carola Agostini, a freshman, Class of 2025, studying in the College of Arts and Sciences. Like many of you who read this, I am also getting to know what life is like at Penn. Before coming to Penn, I’m sure like many others, I watched all of the videos I could find describing the day-to-day activities of students. Now, halfway through my second semester, with the help and support of University Life, I have a chance to tell students’ stories and hopefully show what life is truly like at Penn beyond just a day.
Aditi Singh was my first Student Spotlight. Aditi started working as a tutor during her freshman year. She focused on math and science because she describes herself as a “STEM nerd.” As a fellow tutor, I was very excited to meet someone who I had heard was a successful, resilient, young woman. Personally, I was a bit nervous leading up to my first interview, but, as soon as I met Aditi, she made me feel at ease. Aditi is just one of those people who you never run out of things to say in a conversation. We spoke peer to peer, and she was kind enough to sit down with me and tell me her story.
Aditi had a best friend. They were stuck at the hip, inseparable; however, when they roomed together during her sophomore year, her friend began dealing with mental health issues. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, Aditi’s friend took a leave from Penn. In the aftermath, Aditi tackled personal changes. She learned how to cope and function without her closest companion. “I think people underestimate how sad things can make you,” she said. “I was devastated.”
Staring out of her residence hall windows, Aditi wondered how she would be able to move forward. She would wake up and crawl back into bed with the hopes of sleeping the days away. Despite her sadness and feelings of uncertainty, she promised her parents and herself that she would continue attending classes and maintaining her grades. Over time, Aditi found comfort in the routine that her tutoring position gave her. Tutoring became the highlight of her day — a constant in her life. Tutoring was something she was good at.
Amidst all the uncertainty, tutoring gave her stability and became a light at the end of a dark tunnel. One day, Valerie Wrenn, the associate tutoring director at Weingarten, asked if she wanted to be the lead math tutor. “That news was way bigger for me than it would’ve been without the hardships,” Aditi said. “It was something, something to hold on to. You wake up one day and the sun is brighter.”
Aditi continued with her process of healing and growing. Now, as I interview her, I see a bright young woman who lights up the room. She is kind, she is smart, she is strong. Most of all, she is inspiring.
Talking with Aditi was the highlight of my day. Like many students often experience, I had a very tough week. Our conversation was comforting: openly talking about the struggles we both went through was therapeutic. Like Aditi said, Penn is hard — there is no sugarcoating it. There will be days, weeks, and even semesters where you are not at your best. Those ‘Day in the Life’ videos that we constantly binge only show snippets of the good parts.
As a community, we are working hard towards breaking what we call ‘The Penn Face.’ We want students to know that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to seek help, and we encourage you to seek help. Even though Penn can seem daunting, there are great people and resources here to help. There are students like Aditi that light up every room and staff members like Valerie that support their students. If there is anything to take away from Aditi’s story, it is to seek help, surround yourself with people who support you, and do things that make you happy.
Until next time,
My Conversation with Aditi
- Why did you want to tutor?
I love tutoring because the look on someone’s face when they understand something is priceless. I don’t know how to describe it, but I cherish the ability to empower other people. It makes me feel so happy for me and for them.
- What did you learn about yourself through the process of tutoring others?
Definitely that you need to be patient. You also have to be creative because it matters how you explain things to people. Since people learn in different ways, you have to think on your feet and adapt to what the person needs. The ability to think on my feet has helped me in so many ways and in so many areas of my life. Additionally, having that level of compassion for other people helps you have compassion for yourself, it increases your self-esteem in the process.
- What is your preferred method of learning?
I am a very auditory learner; I repeat and explain things to myself. I also write things down in order to learn it better. My tutees are mostly visual learners so I make sure to always make flowcharts for them. I also think it is super important to learn how you learn because it makes everything much more efficient.
- How did tutoring help you find your way?
As I mentioned before, the structure really helped me because it gave me a routine so I didn’t have to worry about what comes next. I didn’t touch on this, but Valerie, the associate director, was super supportive. Having someone that supports you make a world of a difference. I really love to mention her because she’s great.
- What strategies do you use when tutoring students?
The more you do something and the more time you spend on it the better you will be. Additionally, I always like to start with the fundamentals, because if you have a strong foundation, you will only get stronger and better the higher you go. I like for my students to explain what they’re learning in class because it helps them actively engage with the content and we can scaffold on information together. After that, we continue with practice problems where they will fill in parts of the problem and then do it on their own. There’s a little bit of hand-holding at first, but then they go off and do it for themselves.
- What is your favorite tiny victory in tutoring?
I was tutoring this group of three people — two girls and one guy — during Covid-19. The guy was very quiet and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get him to speak. Suddenly mid semester, after numerous tries, the guy starts talking and the whole group is cracking jokes. It was just the most wonderful community building I’ve ever experienced. I loved it.
- What advice would you give new students at Penn given your own experience?
It is very important to build a support system here at Penn. I feel like you could feel really lost. My freshman year, I have to mention I wasn’t eating or sleeping right, all these little things that you take for granted. Because of this, I think it is really important to establish a routine. Also, seek help, find help in all the right places. There are so many places that support you, I just didn’t know them as a freshman, I didn’t know where to look. Just start somewhere and actively seek out the help you need. Penn is hard. There is no way of sugarcoating it, so just actively seek out help and don’t concern yourself with people liking you; find and surround yourself with people you like. Acceptance will come and start with yourself.