Mohammed Bappe ‘15, from Lansdowne, PA, by way of west Philadelphia, graduated from Swarthmore College in December of 2019 with a special major in history and education with a focus on African American history and decolonization in the Middle East and a minor in peace and conflict studies.
ACADEMICS - My most interesting academic experience was taking an Inside Outside course. This course is a class taken inside a prison once a week with the guys inside. You learn about the prison system, school to prison pipeline, institutional racism and the history of Philadelphia and its racial dynamics throughout the years. It was a life-changing experience; building relationships with those guys inside, hearing their stories and about their personal battles, and what they hoped for themselves and their families. It destroys the notion of people as one-dimensional human beings, where we are defined by our worst actions. Truly an amazing experience.
EXTRACURRICULARS - I was also a part of the Muslim Student Association at some point during my Swarthmore career. I was also in a student group "Students for Justice in Palestine." I lead a lot of movement work/protests on campus. I also worked at the Lang Center of Civic and Social Responsibility and created a pipeline and an initiative that focused on giving low-income students equal opportunity in applying for and attaining summer grants and internships. I also worked at the Intercultural Center as the lead intern, which allowed me to advocate for students, learn about the inner workings of higher education programming and how to advocate for marginalized students in these settings.
I currently am working as a paralegal for the Federal Defenders Office in Philadelphia. I specifically do Habeas Work, which means I work with guys convicted to death who are on death row. Our hope is to first get them off death row, and if so then make a deal for a term of years to eventually send these guys home with their families. My hope is to go to law school and become either a public defender or human rights lawyer.
CFS PREPARATION - CFS taught me the importance of brotherhood and relationships. These things ultimately ground you in life, regardless of your other aspirations or concerns. The ability for one person to connect with someone else is the essence of being a person. I really learned that from the farm, and am also thankful for my sense of humor. The farm was the first time in my life where some mentors vocalized their belief in me, something I hadn't heard before. It's been life changing and I think back to it at times.
ADVICE TO GRIFFINS - My advice to younger Griffins would be to stay grounded in who they are and where they come from. Ultimately, the goal is to bring back ourselves to the villages of people that raised us, and to bring back what we can. I would also tell them to always keep an open mind, tune into their creative selves and learn the skill of being able to be flexible and grounded no matter what is happening around them. Also, I would highly encourage them to not forget about their health, both mental and physical. It's important to tend to one’s mind and body, often something we forget. Specifically, I've gotten into the habit of having activities that ground me, and having a conversation with myself every morning. The hardest conversation we have in life is the one with ourselves. I would encourage every young Griffin to have that conversation often, get to know themselves, heal their traumas and to ask themselves who they want to be and if they're living into that every day.