Tsahai Pettiford is in her final year of a five-year program studying for a bachelor of architecture degree at Philadelphia University in Pennsylvania. She has received two scholarships from the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA). Because the scholarships were able to provide her family and her with some financial relief, she expresses lots of appreciation for her neighborhood’s generosity and support.

Similar to the people in her neighborhood, Tsahai is always looking for volunteering opportunities. While away at school, she volunteers with Philadelphia University’s National Organization of Minority Architecture Students program. The program’s sole purpose is to provide minority students who are majoring in architecture with opportunities to learn more about the field of architecture and to network with other students and professionals, but they also provide them with opportunities to serve the community. She also volunteers with the Philadelphia University Mentoring Program, also known as P.U.M.P.-Up. The program partners with various Philadelphia public schools located in the same neighborhood as the university. Every week, she visits her volunteer site to assist elementary school–aged children with their reading skills or their homework. While back home, she sometimes assists her mother, who is a DC Public Schools teacher, in her classroom with children in the same age group by using her creativity to help decorate the classroom and create educational activities. She also volunteered in the SWNA office for the Education and Scholarship Task Force last summer where she located and reached out to former scholarship recipients to prepare for the SWNA Alumni Reunion that was held on July 10, 2016.

In her previous year of school, Tsahai realized that, in addition to her fascination with architecture and volunteering for her community, she also has interest in the field of psychology. After being given a semester-long assignment for one of her classes, she decided to challenge herself with finding a topic that combined all three of them. She quickly discovered biophilia. Biophilia refers to the innate connection that humans have with nature. She aspires to receive an internship and eventually get a full-time job at an architecture firm that specializes in designing buildings for the community that strongly connect its users with nature and, as a result, give them a better sense of well-being. This includes nursing homes, homeless shelters, low-income homes, public schools, libraries, and community centers.

The fall semester of 2016, Tsahai studied architecture in Rome. She also traveled to other parts of Italy and other countries such as Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, England, and France. She did not really expect it before, but traveling has almost become addictive for her. She enjoyed the feeling of being captivated by a completely different culture. She was even grateful for culture shock because it made her love home even more. Being surrounded by totally different languages, music, various everyday social customs, and especially the architecture thrilled her. She has a new outlook on her field because of this experience. Italian architecture, or European architecture in general, has encouraged her to develop aspirations for designing buildings with more durable materials that last for centuries, aesthetically pleasing exterior walls, and spaces that would perhaps revitalize social experiences outdoors.

Tsahai moved to Southwest with her family when she was just one and half years old. From Pre-Kindergarten until her sixth grade graduation, she attended what is now called Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Her seventh and eighth grade years were spent at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. She then attended Benjamin Banneker Academic High School until she received her high school diploma in 2012.

Tsahai is one of seventeen students that received a scholarship in 2017 through SWNA’s Education and Scholarship Task Force because caring neighbors like you have supported this program for 42 years. Your support is needed this year more than ever to assist students for the 2017-2018 academic year. Please make your tax-deductible check payable to SWNA, note “Scholarship Fund” in the memo line of your check, and mail to: SWNA Scholarship Fund, PO Box 70131, Washington, DC 20024-0131 or donate securely online by credit card at www.razoo.com/story/Swna-Scholarship-Fund. You can also donate by VISA, MasterCard, or American Express by calling SWNA at 202-437-1700. Thank you for your support!

The SWNA scholarship is open to any Southwest youth in zip code 20024 who wishes to pursue an education in any accredited under graduate or technical institution. For more information and an application go to www.swdc.org/swna/task-forces/education-scholarship/ or the Southwest Neighborhood Library. You may also call Vyllorya Evans at 202-257-7619.

By: Vyllorya Evans

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