Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of Philly Fellows? In the ‘Meet Our Fellows’ series, we’ll introduce you to our current fellows, their projects, and how they are benefiting from the Philly Fellows program. This post features Roderick Cook, who is serving as the Project Coordinator of the Homeless Education Advocacy Program at The Education Law Center.

Name: Roderick Cook

Hometown: Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania

University: University of Pennsylvania

Major: Gender Sexuality and Women’s Studies

How did you decide to become a Philly Fellow?

I heard about Philly Fellows when they came to Penn to host an interest meeting for graduating seniors. The program sounded wonderful, and I knew that I wanted to try to stay in Philly after graduation. I had fallen in love with the city since coming here for undergrad, and this program not only provided a way to meaningfully engage in Philadelphia after graduation, but also provided housing and opportunities to meet other people with similar interests and in my same position. It was a perfect match!

Let’s talk about your project. What’s your site like? What are you working on? 

I work for the Education Law Center as the project coordinator for our Homeless Education Advocacy Program. ELC’s mission is to ensure that all youth in Pennsylvania have access to quality public education, and I act as a liaison between our organization youth experiencing homelessness in Philly. So far, I’ve learned a lot about the amazing organizations that serve homeless youth and families in Philadelphia and have made some great connections with the people who work at those organizations. It’s really exciting to get to see the behind-the-scenes legal work that happens at a non-profit law project while still being able to fulfill my role as more of a community advocate.

Community living is one of the most important aspects of the Philly Fellows program. What’s this like? How have you benefited?

I’ve loved living with other fellows in the program! It’s helpful to debrief after difficult days at work and to learn about each other’s organizations and how our work connects. We’ve also remained very close as a cohort and try to find opportunities to spend time with people from the other houses as well!

What’s your favorite part about being a Philly Fellow so far?

I’m really loving getting the opportunity to live in Center City and have easy access to exploring all parts of Philly. I’ve been able to start volunteering at a community LGBT Center that’s just blocks from my house and have spent my weekends exploring other neighborhoods with friends or by myself. Philly Fellows also keeps us critically thinking about the ways we’re engaging with the city, so these interactions seem more meaningful.

What’s the most challenging part of being a Philly Fellow?

I find the 9-5 workday a bit challenging! This is my first significant work experience where I’m working Monday through Friday on a normal schedule like that. Over the past 4 years, I was so used to budgeting my time in small increments and always having a lot of projects to work on and switch to if I couldn’t focus on one thing, and now I’m still adjusting to really focusing in on a single job every day of the week. It’s exciting to get to really dedicate all of your time to a single job, but it’s difficult!

The question everyone’s probably asking: any idea what’s next? What do you hope to do after Philly Fellows?

I am not 100% sure what I want to do next, but I’m leaning towards going to graduate school for social work. I think I may spend one more year working in Philly after the fellowship is over. Eventually, I would love to work with LGBTQ youth, perhaps in a direct counseling capacity or through working at a community or campus LGBT Center.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I love playing board games and video games with my friends. That hasn’t really changed as my go-to fun and crazy weekend activity since college.

Do you hang out with other Philly Fellows in your free time?

Yes! We’ve gotten together several times as a larger group on our own since the program started. Olivia organized a really fun picnic in Clark Park, and the Carpenter Street house hosted a debate-watching party a couple of weeks ago. We also stay active in our group chat.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Vegetable Drunken Noodle and an order of Vegetable Spring Rolls from Pattaya Thai Cuisine.

If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?

I would want the ability to transform into any kind of animal. That way, you get the powers of flight, breathing underwater, super strength, and a lot more whenever you want them.

If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be and why?

Oh wow, this lines up pretty well with my super-hero answer. I would describe myself as an elephant. They’ve always been my favorite animal. They’re intelligent, emotional, and matriarchal.