Mrs. Cheryl Lang served as Director of Community Engagement with I-LEAD, Inc. for more than fifteen years, establishing community partnerships, building relationships with professionals in the higher education field, training organizations as new ACE program partners, and coaching and advising prospective and current students to pursue a college degree. An advocate and celebrant for students, Mrs. Lang was also a member of the original I-LEAD training team that built the leadership capacities of residents from marginalized communities across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The scholarship fund will focus on distributing grants between $500 and $1,000 to students who are especially disadvantaged for whom grants of this size would be impactful toward their continued attendance, retention and graduation from the program. Special consideration will be given to single parents and ex-offenders. Funds may be used according to the applicant’s discretion. To qualify, a student must have completed at least one semester with a minimum C+ average and demonstrate commitment to finishing their degree program.
Barbara Hankinson is a force in her family for education. Never allowing others to define her ability or her self, Ms. Hankinson forged her own path in life and blazed a trail for multiple generations.
College was not a topic of conversation in her household growing up. Yet as the ninth of ten children, a female, and at a young age, Ms. Barbara set her sights on becoming a doctor. Inspired by the vision of a lady doctor on a TV show, she graduated from community college and was awarded a prestigious scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology. The next step was medical school. However, Ms. Barbara found herself rejected from Temple University Medical School because she was a single mother. At the time, the admission team thought, ‘how could she handle medical school?’
But they clearly didn’t know her. Although it was a struggle, she had already made it through undergraduate studies as a single parent with a full time job. Determined to succeed in anything she puts her mind to, Ms. Barbara took her dream in another direction, returning to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate school. “It was ok because I knew who I was. You think I was welcomed on campus as black student in the 70s? I was still told I didn’t belong as a grad student. It is so important to have a safe space to learn, to get to know who you are as a possibility.”
Ms. Barbara knows firsthand that the ACE Partnership Site program is such a space. At the partnership sites, she notes that students realize they have resources, a network, a voice, and are not alone on the college journey. During class, in dialog with other learners, and when pleasantly surprised by their first A, partnership site students come to recognize themselves as successful college material [or] / come to see that college is in fact, for them, and they can be successful.]
And while Ms. Hankinson was the first to graduate college in her family, she too, is no longer alone. All of her children, nieces and nephews are attending or graduated from college. Two family members have even literally followed in her footsteps, both graduating from Harcum College in 2019 and then completing bachelors degrees this Spring from West Chester University (Thomas) and Chestnut Hill College (Shantelle). For although Ms. Barbara is not a Harcum graduate, she was an original participant in I-LEAD’s community leadership development training from which the ACE Partnership Site program was born. “It’s coming full circle. The commitments made in the beginning made it possible for Shantelle and Thomas. And now it’s in the next generation. Shantelle’s daughters are attending Penn State and the University of Virginia. It’s like I pulled back the storm curtain and they all ran through!” With a smile and a delighted clap of hands, Ms. Barbara declares, “When you come near me you’re going to be transformed!” Believe it.
Ms. Hankinson’s choice to further her education and earn a college degree has impacted generations of her family. Yours can too. Imagine and believe in who you are as a possibility.
With vaccines widely available and case numbers dropping, cities around the U.S. are dropping restrictions and focusing on “getting back to normal” for the summer. But for many — after more than a year in isolation — “normal” feels scary. Experts say we need to talk more about what transitioning to a more open society will be like — and what our new normal will be like.
Here are some tips on how exactly to do that, from Riana Elyse Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, and psychiatrist Dr. Jessi Gold, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
FIND THE RIGHT COPING SKILLS
People need to acknowledge their anxiety, and find the best coping skills to move forward.
But how do you find those coping skills? Anderson says even people who had reliable coping methods before the pandemic might find they aren’t working now. It’s important to assess if a coping skill is still working for you, and if not, explore others — on your own or with a mental health professional.
“Cooking for me used to be something that was such a great stress reliever. I’d come home, make a meal, and now if I have to look at another pot, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Anderson said.
CHECK IN TO FIND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH “BASELINE”
Gold says during the pandemic our baseline stress has changed. The things that did not cause us stress before the pandemic might be hard to deal with now, and vice versa.
“Our baseline mental health, our baseline stress for everything is very different than it was for everybody. And you just have to be aware of that and be OK with that,” Gold said.
EVALUATE YOUR FEELINGS — ON AN ONGOING BASIS
It’s important to pay attention to these changes and make new evaluations about what is stressful, and how you handle it, while our workplaces and communities adjust. You don’t have to make adjustments all at once. Anderson says after the kind of constant stress we’ve experienced over the last year, these reactions are normal.
FIND COMMON GROUND
Through the pandemic, and as venues reopen, people have different levels of personal safety. When interacting with people who had a different response to the health threat Anderson says it’s important to find common ground. But by the same token, Gold says, it’s also important to set boundaries.
“You build boundaries at some capacity and the level of that boundary is up to you,” Gold said. “You can make boundaries around conversation topics, which is to say, like, I still like that person as a human and I’m not going to completely judge everything I’ve ever known about them my whole entire life or however long you’ve known them based on what they’re doing right now.”
HAVE MORE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
Gold says conversations about mental health need to happen more often and be less under the surface. And instead of trying to go back to “normal” we need to process what has happened during the pandemic and more forward.
“I think that we will be in a place where all of us will be in a better, more healthy place if we can talk about things, including our feelings, out loud,” said Gold.
Watch the full conversation on mental health and advice as states continue to reopen here.