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The following remarks were shared by David Castro, Co-Founder and President of I-LEAD, Inc. and the ACE Program, welcoming new students for Fall 2021. 

We’re on a journey together… we are on a quest together. Right now I want you to visualize yourself completing our quest– within the next three years. It will be a bright sunny day in May. This virus that has disrupted so much will be less of a threat because or broad uptake of the vaccines. The economy will be back. The job market will be back. Travel will be back. And Harcum’s campus will be alive with activity. It will be graduation day. The trees will be in bloom and your family and friends will have gathered to be with you. You will be walking across that graduation stage and Dr. DeTemple will hand you the degree that you have earned.

But the you that’s here today will not be the same as the one who completes the quest. The one who completes the quest will be a new you. A new version of yourself that has grown in so many ways
–Smarter
–Increased Powers of Analysis
–Increased Powers of Communication, Better Speaker, Better Writer
–Increased Understanding of the World
–Powerful Marketable Skills
–A powerfully expanded social network of support to help you the rest of your life
–Strong leadership skills, allowing you to accomplish what you set your mind to.

How will this transformation happen? It will happen because of your journey in this program as one of Harcum’s Community Scholars. This journey offers you extraordinary benefits. Here are some the highlights:

–The scholarship itself is very important, which helps to fund your educational journey. Without that generous investment from Harcum, most could not afford to participate in this program.

–Next, you have the vital support of your community partner–I mean the site coordinator and the community-based organization that introduced you to Harcum and helped you get here today. Together with your team at Harcum, these important guides are dedicated to helping you reach your goal of graduating from college.

–Also, your community scholarship will allow you to participate in I-LEAD’s leadership development program, beginning in September. This is a life transforming experience that will help you develop interpersonal skills and leadership abilities you will rely upon for the rest of your life. And as a community scholar, you’ll also be building a powerful social network, that network of support that includes your friends, your teachers, and the larger community of Harcum Alumni. This team of people will be your allies in confronting life’s challenges. This social strength that you gain from Harcum is just as important as the knowledge and skills that you will gain.

And all of these benefits and others will come together, and will increase your grit, resilience, ability and determination.  We know you have those qualities because you are here today. 

You will be on that stage receiving your degree before you know it! Congratulations on making this investment in yourself, in your family and community.

We recognize that this is a stressful time in America. Many people think stress is bad for your health. But I’m going to tell you a secret, let you in on something very important. It’s not necessarily true that stress is bad for you. Stress can actually be very good for your health. 

In our leadership program, we look at the work of Kelly McGonigal, a famous Stanford University psychologist. McGonigal’s research shows us how people can thrive under stress… how they can actually become stronger. You’re going to master that ability of becoming stronger under stress.

Stress in life can be just like the vaccine against the virus that threatens us. The vaccine puts some stress on our immune systems, and that stress wakes up and strengthens the immunity we need to defeat the virus. In the same way, exercise stresses your body, you break down but you build back muscle and endurance, you get stronger. Stronger in the places that were weak before.

And I think this is one of the reasons that employers value a college degree. Because they know that taking on the stress of going to college builds your strength, makes you more capable of contributing to an organization.

College is a life transforming experience. People who graduate from college
–double their lifetime incomes
–stay employed during times of economic upheaval like the one we are experiencing right now
–are happier, healthier, live longer, and become leaders 
–and best of all, when you graduate, your children are more likely to succeed in their lives.

This educational journey is all about you and your success. It’s about helping you to avoid the problems that arise from not reaching your full potential.

This whole initiative, this movement we call ACE, Achieve College Education, requires a whole community. And we want to thank them. We want to thank Harcum, Dr. DeTemple, Evelyn Santana, and all of the program directors and leaders here for making this possible. We also want to recognize and thank our community partners. So many people here are passionately engaged to help you achieve success. 

I want you to know that this year we celebrated having more than 1,300 learners earn degrees from this program. Today you join a vibrant community of hundreds of other learners in this partnership initiative. They are thriving and you will be also. 

I want to leave you with two short quotes to think about during this orientation.

First, from Nelson Mandela. A man who thrived under stress, who led the entire nation of South Africa from inside a small prison cell. He said, “Education is the most powerful tool to change the world. Armed with education, you will lead the change that this world needs.” 

Second, Mahatma Gandhi, liberator of India, who inspired Dr. King. Gandhi said, “Live today as if you would die tomorrow. Learn today as if you would live forever.”