Meet Shania Bennett, IGNITE's Philadelphia Fellow
We are pleased to share that Shania Bennett will be serving as our Philadelphia Fellow! IGNITE spoke with Shania to hear more about her vision for the Fellowship and what she hopes to accomplish.
IGNITE: Welcome, Shania! We’re excited to chat with you today. We’d love to hear more about what motivated you to become an IGNITE Fellow.
SB: I’m very passionate about my community and eager to learn how I can increase political power as a young woman in government. I plan to work with IGNITE’s network of women leaders to exchange effective strategies that I can implement in my community to combat youth violence and promote prevention amongst the next generation. I want to gain new knowledge and understanding of the root causes of violence specifically in urban, high-poverty African American and Latin communities in efforts to curate and apply prevention strategies that tackle those issues at the core. I also want to gain an understanding of existing programming that impacts those impacted by violence and their effectiveness in restoring or healing those communities.
IGNITE: Your passion for your community is inspiring. Is there anything you would want to change in your community and why?
SB: One thing I want to change in my community is the young voter turnout rate. I want to increase younger adult voter turnout because currently there are so many young people who are registered to vote and do not vote regularly and those that simply do not vote at all. I want to change this by first establishing a presence in my community that teaches the importance of voting and then hosting various voter registration drives in my community and connecting with neighborhood community leaders to assist me in this effort.
IGNITE: IGNITE Fellows are political leaders in their communities. Can you tell us more about your political leadership experience?
SB: In 2016 my childhood friend Hassan Kay was tragically gunned down in my community as a result of mistaken identity. From that day forward I became committed to being the youth voice in my community that would advocate and speak out against the youth involvement in violence. That summer I started an internship with State Representative Jordan Harris (PA Legislative District 186th) that continued all the way through 2019. In that role I have organized community canvassing that brought awareness and support to new legislation, ‘Clean Slate’ expungement bill which was signed into law that automatically seals records from public view after 10 years. I have also completed a community outreach project that resulted in over 10,000 voters participating in off-season elections in 2017 and increased voter turnout overall amongst youth. In 2017 I started a youth non-violence initiative that consists of a full summer tournament, free community day fun, and basketball while aiming to tackle inner-city violence in Philadelphia between youth and young adults.
IGNITE: Thank you for sharing, and for using your voice to help make a difference in your community. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SB: Civic engagement is very important because it’s essential in the growth and development of communities. Civic engagement is necessary because it’s instrumental to cultivating positive change that is a product of voting, volunteering, and the development of what it means to have a voice.
IGNITE: As a Fellow, you’ll be mobilizing your community. How do you plan to mobilize your community and get them excited about IGNITE?
SB: I’ll mobilize my community and get them excited about IGNITE by first talking about it regularly in community town halls that I attend. I would also utilize social media to my advantage and generate physical materials that I could give out at events and even tabling at events to recruit young women who are interested in politics to attend events hosted by IGNITE.
IGNITE: Here are at IGNITE, we hope to redefine political leadership. What does leadership mean to you? What values are important to you as a leader?
SB: To me leadership is the ability to lead effectively and create progressive change for generations to come. My ability to exemplify and demonstrate leadership has been fine-tuned through various opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of. These abilities manifest in my political career, religious organization, and community.
At the age of 18, I became the youngest elected community leader in Pennsylvania. As I approach my fourth year in this leadership position, with the help of community members, elected officials, and community partners I have been able to increase the millennial voter turnout, assist in 2 successful gun buybacks to get firearms off the streets and organize numerous community give-back events. In my religious organization, I am a youth leader and an ordained minister. In this role, I exercise my leadership qualities as I advise and mentor youth. I also volunteer with the prison outreach ministry that helps juvenile lifers make a smooth re-entry back into society.
IGNITE: Thank you for your time and for all that you do to empower others, Shania!
More about Shania:
Shania Bennett serves as IGNITE’s Philadelphia Fellow. Shania started college at the age of 15 years old and is a proud alumna of Pennsylvania State University. In May of 2018, at just 18 years old, Shania was elected in the City of Philadelphia to the position of Committee Person where she serves the 48th Ward 12th Division in South Philadelphia. She is currently the youngest person ever to be elected in Philadelphia. Shania is also a co-founder of “Reach 4 Peace”, a non-violence peace initiative and a licensed Youth Pastor. She is a scholar, athlete and musician. Shania aspires to serve as a firefighter in Philadelphia and hopes to run for United States Senate one day. For Philadelphia inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.