“Knowing they weren’t going to give us certain experiences, we were just innovative and decided we were going to do it ourselves.”
—Tina Sloan Green, International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, 1999
Did you know that the first record of the birth of a Black woman in Philadelphia was known as Black Alice? She was born in 1694 to African parents and would become a businesswoman who successfully ran Dunk’s Ferry which carried passengers across the Delaware River for many years. How about Dr. Helen Dickens? She was the first African American woman to be admitted to the College of Surgeonsat a time when only six percent of all doctors were women and later organized Black women to fight cancer by getting early cancer screening and advocated for the right of teens to get birth control. They are two of 95 Black women profiled in the book, They Carried Us: The Social Impact of Philadelphia’s Black Women Leaders.
Black Women have had a positive effect on all aspects of American culture and society, with names that are widely recognized. Think Harriet Tubman. Rosa Parks. But we’ve neglected to write about and tell the stories of thousands of Black women who have made extraordinary contributions to this country. In addition to focusing on systemic racism in the current national dialogue about race in America, it is also time to shine a bright light on the contributions of Black women since the founding days of the republic.
In their book, They Carried Us: The Social Impact of Philadelphia’s Black Women Leaders, Allener Baker-Rogers and Fasaha Traylor honor 95 Black women—historical figures and living women—whose vision, creativity, hard work and determination shaped the contours of Philadelphia from colonial times to the present day. They take us into the lives of women who organized and led protest movements, founded and ran successful businesses, excelled in sports, produced exceptional works of art and held powerful political offices, all while dealing with the complexities of everyday life.
The book is available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/They-Carried-Us-Philadelphias-Leaders/dp/1938798309 and you can also read more about it at www.theycarriedus.org. The stories will inspire you, your daughters, and all the proud Black women in your life!
On her graduation day in May, 2016, Drue Bailey may have had a lot of thoughts going through her mind. Besides the excitement of finally earning her degree in middle age, she had met and was dating Michael Burks, another student in the Harcum @ Chester site. When they met at the Chester site, and befriended each other, both of them were happy to be companions as study partners and exercise buddies. The casual friendship deepened as they spent more time together. Michael was impressed by Drue’s work ethic, her willingness to strive for more than was required, and was moved by her compassion. A self designated country boy at heart, he hesitated to go further and ask for a date. “She was out of my league.”
Drue was blown away when Michael arrived with a dozen roses to take her to the movies as a “friend.” Afterward, they talked for hours and found that they had a lot in common. This was a different experience for her, and she realized that he was actually courting her.
Their relationship was growing serious and both were planning to continue their education. However, Michael was on schedule to graduate the following year. Although he encouraged Drue to begin classes at Lincoln that fall, she told him that she would wait for him. “We began together, and I want to finish with you.” Michael says that this one sentence “sealed his fate” because it showed him how devoted she was to both him and their relationship.
They both came to believe that they had a spiritual connection ordained by a God who helped them find each other. They married in 2017, on New Year’s Day, in what they both describe as a ‘fairy tale’ wedding. The magic even extended to the weather as a predicted snow storm held off until they left the church. He had proposed a year earlier, on Christmas Day in front of both families, and every family member participated in the wedding.
Long before enrolling in the [email protected] program, Drue and Michael had different views about college. Drue had started school twice before, but couldn’t complete her degree because she had to concentrate on raising her children, heeding her family’s motto that ‘you always finish what you start’. Around the time that her youngest left home, Drue’s employer Resources for Human Development offered employees an opportunity for promotion if they enrolled in the Harcum program. The company promised to support her, and her work in a group home gave her the opportunity to apply what she was learning in class, so she enrolled.
Michael, an ex marine, was a tractor trailer driver and school bus driver who had not thought about college until his seven year old daughter surprised him with a challenge. She reminded him that he was always telling her and her sisters that they should get good grades, and that he expected them to go to college and asked him, “how can you tell me about getting good grades and going to college when you only have a high school diploma?“ He realized she was right. Why didn’t he have a college degree? He saw a flyer about the [email protected] program at church and enrolled.
Both Michael and Drue excelled in the associate degree program, together earned bachelor’s degrees from Lincoln University, and will complete studies for their masters degrees in May, 2021. They attribute a lot of their success to their support of each other. They studied together and shared ideas, often expressing differences that improved their insight into different topics. The strength of their relationship was born out in 2014 when Michael faced some serious medical issues. With Drue’s help and the memory of his daughter’s voice, he returned to school after only a week, despite medical advice. He could barely walk, but was determined to ‘take one step at a time’ and never missed a class.
College completion has made it possible for them to move ahead in life. In addition to the RHD promotion, Drue got a job with an insurance company that required a degree and inspired three RHD colleagues to enroll in college. Michael continues to work at RHD, and has received a promotion.
What does the future hold? Their vision to begin a program offering job and life skills training to at-risk youth has crystallized in recent months. The idea is to engage youth in real time employment opportunities while in high school, and commit their earnings to savings and investments for individual college funds. Participants gain a vision for a positive future which is passed on to younger siblings. “We want to stop the cycle of youth incurring minor offenses, developing a record, dropping out of school and turning to selling drugs because they can’t get a job. And then being stuck in the system for their early adult lives. We want them to know they can make a different choice.”
The program will help youth make different choices in all aspects of life by incorporating the practical and simple tool of mindfulness and will be named “WHY?” an acronym for What are you going to do about it, How are you going to do it, and only You can do something about it. “If you think consciously about what you’re doing, you probably don’t need to be doing it. If youth make good decisions by age 18, maybe they’ll live until 50.”
Love for community, family and one another form the foundation of Drue and Michael’s dreams for the future. Whatever they decide to do, it’s a good bet that they will be working on it together.
Many of you know her as the site coordinator for Harcum College @ Deliverance Church. The leader of the largest partnership site, Ms. Celeste Atkins manages an average of 100 active students each semester and shepherded upwards of 250 community members through to earning their associate degree. In addition, she is the Dean of Administration of the Deliverance Bible Institute. As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, Celeste has achieved her PhD in Management and Leadership. In her spare time during the pandemic, Celeste has also written eight books! With an eye toward restoring romance in popular fiction, here Celeste tells us more about the inspiration behind her writing.
What was your motive for writing these series of books? I have always been an avid reader and watcher of romance books and movies. When I became a Christian, I stopped reading romance novels because they were too descriptive of things I feel couples should share in private; that is why I do not title my books as romance, but rather A Love Story or A Story. I believe love is clean, pure, and real. In a world where so much hatred, meanness, and sexual exploitation is taking place I wanted to remind people that true love, pure love, and the beauty of love still exist.
How do you make time to write? The truth? I would go to bed and dream my stories. I jumped up between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM daily and typed what I would dream. When I got home from work, I sat at my laptop and the stories would just flow. The stories were coming so fast, sometimes I would not go to bed until 2:00 AM. Before I could finish one book, I would know the title of the next book and begin dreaming the next story. It wasn’t until I joined a book club on Facebook that I realized I had awakened the writer in me. One of the members who has been a writer by profession for fifteen years shared that his stories come to him in his dreams as well. I call the process supernatural because I began writing in March 2020 and by August 2020, I have completed eight books. Readers of the first two tell me they cannot put them down. Therefore, I have to attribute my work to the writer that was laying dormant in me because I was too busy with a lot of other things. COVID-19 caused me to slow down and my books are the result.
What words of encouragement would you give to aspiring writers? I am not going to say ‘just write.’ However, when you get the inspiration, the nudge, or the inkling to write in whatever genre you like, get to it and write.
Books by Celeste Atkins:
Have you figured out yet what you want to do after you graduate, especially those of you graduating in Spring 2021? You already have so much on your plate that you might think you can’t handle one more thing.
You have help! The Career Office at Harcum has all kinds of resources, whether you want to continue your education or land a new job and it’s all free for Harcum students.
Do you want to talk with someone about your options, or help you figure out your next steps? Set up a phone call or Zoom call with a Harcum career advisor. It’s easy to do — just click here to talk with Claire (Meet with Claire Williams>>) or Trevor (Meet with Trevor Gulledge>>).
Once you’ve written your resume and/or cover letters, send them off to the Career Office and someone will review them and give you suggestions. Again, it’s really easy — click on this link Bear Tracks. Once you submit them, it takes two or three days to get them back.
Harcum also has an online job board where you can look at jobs posted by local and regional employers. Take a look here at the Job Board.
Instead of focusing on getting a new job, maybe you’ve decided to transfer to a four year college to get your bachelor’s degree. Harcum has several webinars scheduled in February and early March to describe the process of transferring, completing an application for admission and applying for financial aid. You can sign up here https://www.harcum.edu/s/1044/bp20/interior.aspx?sid=1044&gid=1&pgid=2918. Scroll down to the “Upcoming Events” section.
FInally, always remember that your site coordinator is here to help in any way!
Many adults seeking college education find that when the burden of finding and registering for programs is all on them, the dream falls into the background when you already have a career, and life is moving forward. For Jamoca Harkins, a mother and school bus driver, the availability of ACE in her neighborhood made all the difference. She heard about the program from a friend, and immediately saw an opportunity.
Jamoca decided to major in leadership to eventually start her own café business. After graduating from Harcum, she pursued a B.A. in Psychology from Cheyney University, and now wants to become a family therapist. This decision was rooted in Jamoca’s experiences as a child in a broken home, raised by her grandmother during her teen years. “My background has made me interested in understanding people and their choices… I knew that I had options. I could live like my parents or I could live like my grandmother.” She’s glad that her children are following her footsteps by also pursuing higher education, “Two are in college, one is a senior in high school, and one just got her Masters.” And now that she has fulfilled her dream of achieving college degrees, Jamoca wants to work with kids who were raised with domestic violence.
Reflecting on her success, Jamoca says that “The fact that Harcum, I-LEAD and ACE were brought to my community is important. I didn’t have to search it out. It fit around my family and work schedule.” She urges, “Take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of you.”
After completing her associate degree from Harcum, Jamoca kept moving forward and pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Cheyney University. graduating suma cum laude in May 2020. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Public Health program at Temple University.
Equipped with a Bachelor’s Degree, Jamoca dove into her career field and now works with The Crime Victim’s Center of Chester County as a Victim Advocate and Restitution Manager.
“I am a success, and I have Harcum and I-LEAD to thank for their role in it.”
Anybody who is receiving a Harcum Community Scholarship is eligible to take the HCS Leadership workshops which happen twice a month on Zoom.
The workshops complement the academic work you’re doing — they help you to become the very best possible version of yourself and an agent of change in your own life and in your community. The material you get in the workshops (each one includes guided conversation and specific exercises) will help you create a vision for your life and figure out how to make that vision a reality — a series of goals. You’ll identify your strengths and how to build on them. You will learn tools that can help you change outdated habits that hold you back from achieving your goals and how to overcome old ways of thinking that tell you what you can’t do. You’ll learn specific practices that will keep you motivated, focused and help you develop a sense of purpose.
If you want to know when the next series of workshops will start, send an email to [email protected]
It’s still January so you have some time to make (no more than one or two!) resolutions that may make your life at least a little bit easier and more satisfying. Let’s start with the hard one first – money issues (at least the ones you can control!).
Life can be harder and more expensive than it should be without a bank account. Today, there are options for online bank accounts that are easy to sign up for and easy to use. For instance, Chime (https://www.chime.com/) is an online banking system that does not use the Chex system to qualify applicants. With a Chime account, you can do everything you would with a traditional bank account including receiving direct deposits form employers and government agencies. Check it out.
It can sometimes be a struggle trying to stay afloat financially while you are getting your degree. But you also want to graduate with the least amount of debt possible. And you want financial aid dollars to see you through that bachelor’s degree! So, while it may be tempting to take out the maximum student loan you can get, DON’T DO IT. Use it for necessary expenses, of course. But if you can come out the other end with your degree and only a few thousand dollars of debt, you will feel so successful. With your degree, you are going to get a better, more satisfying job that pays you a good salary and you won’t have to use that great new salary, or raise, to pay off student loans.
Budgets — a dirty word but a great idea!
You’ve probably heard this advice hundreds of times but life really is easier if you have a budget. The truth is, the lower your income, the more important a budget becomes. And it’s hard. We get it. But if you keep track of how you spend your money, you’ll probably see ways that you can better manage what you have coming in. Mint (https://mint.intuit.com/) is a free app that gives you insights about your spending, helps you create a custom budget, and tracks your spending. It links all of your bank accounts and credit cards and automatically puts each transaction in different categories. Review your transactions periodically and identify possible cuts to make. see what you can cut. Be Ruthless!
You know those subscriptions with recurring monthly fees? Each one is such a “reasonable” amount of money…$5.99 here, $7.99 there, but they start to add up. And sometimes you might sign up for something, never use it, and completely forget about it. TRIM (https://www.asktrim.com/) to the rescue. Trim keeps track of those monthly transactions and tells you how much you spend on subscriptions each month. It will let you know if you have two subscriptions to the same service and will ask you each month if you want to cancel particular subscriptions. And the really good news? If you say “yes,” the app will take over and cancel the subscription for you — you don’t have to do a thing!
Can We Talk About Credit Cards?
It’s so easy to get into trouble with credit cards. Sometimes we use them to make ends meet at the end of the month and make minimum monthly payments and then get slammed with high interest charges on the remaining balance. STOP THE MADNESS.
This is another piece of advice you’ve heard at least a hundred times, but if you do it, you will have greater peace of mind. Pay down your debt with a method called “snowballing.”
Snowballing means listing all of your debts in order from smallest to highest dollar amount and focus on paying off the smallest balance while only paying the minimums on the others. If you have a $5,000 student loan at 4% interest, a credit card balance of $6,000 with 17% interest, and a $10,000 car loan with 9% interest, you pay off the student loan first, followed by the credit card and finally the car. Once the smallest debt is paid, you move to the next smallest using the same strategy and include the amount you were paying on the first debt into your monthly payment on the next. You continue to do this until all of the debts are paid, the largest being the last one to go.
A big pro for this method is the psychological win it provides. It’s so satisfying to cross a debt off your list. That boost can also give you momentum; you killed that one, you can kill all of these debts! This kind of boost is no small thing.
Ok. Enough money management advice for now. If you only act on one or two of these suggestions, you’ll feel at least a little bit better about your financial situation. Promise.
“I was laid off in 2013 after 24 years because I didn’t have a degree. Finding another job was hard.” It can’t get more real than that. After a year of unemployment, Larry started working at a grocery store, but wanted to find a job that was more meaningful to him.
Larry’s sister graduated from Harcum in 2016 and was the driving force behind his choice to pursue his associate degree with the ACE program. “She encouraged me to enroll, and it was a challenge,” he says, but after taking the leap, he considers it the best decision he’s made in the last five years. Inspired by his grandfather’s return to learning, Larry’s 19 year old grandson also returned to night school to finish his high school diploma.
Even though Larry had been out of school for forty years, all the assumptions he had made about himself and education — that he couldn’t pick up concepts quickly as an adult, or that he wasn’t an “intelligent” person — were replaced by the realization that he could do anything. “ACE has made me realize that there are no limits to me. When I walk, I hold my head up higher, and when I ask for a raise at work I know that I deserve it.”
Along with the $600 stimulus payment that was approved in December, Congress also made some welcome changes to Pell grants and SNAP, and allocated money to offer assistance to help low-income people get internet service. The new benefits should be available in September. Here’s what we know so far —
- A 15% increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit amount for all recipients.
- Expansion of eligiblity to students who are eligible to participate in a federal or state work-study program. You don’t have to actually be working in a work-study program to receive SNAP benefits.
- Students with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of $0 based on their FAFSA for the academic year will be eligible for SNAP.
Financial Aid Improvements
- Students from families who earn up to 175 percent of the federal poverty line, or up to 225 percent for single parents, will automatically qualify for a maximum grant. What this means: If you are a single parent with a household of 4, you can earn up to $59,000 and still get the full PELL grant of $6,345.
- Those who make up to 275 percent of the poverty line, or 325 percent for single parents, are guaranteed at least the minimum award.
- The concept known as an expected family contribution will be replaced with a student aid index. This index can be negative, but cannot go below -$1,500. Restoration of the Second Chance Pell Grant for individuals pursuing postsecondary education while or after being incarcerated. If you know someone who has been incarcerated and who wants to go to college, tell them to reach out to us.
- The ban on people getting PELL for prior drug convictions has been removed.
- The selective service requirement has been eliminated.
- Low income families can get up to $50 a month for their internet bill. Eligible households include households having individuals or children that qualify for free and reduced lunch program, Pell grant recipients, recently laid off or furloughed workers, individuals who qualify for the Lifeline program, and individuals who qualify for an existing discount program offered by internet service providers. Payments will go directly to your internet service provider. Directions for how to apply are not yet available, but we will let you know as soon the process is open.
Sometimes you may feel like just another college student whose dreams and concerns matter only to you. Krystal Jackson was doubtful that any college program would treat her as an individual and take the time to understand who she was and what she wanted in life. Until she encountered the ACE program. The recruiter at Congresso, Carlos, was persistent and encouraging. He took the time to listen closely to Krystal’s concerns about time commitments and childcare. This attention and care made Krystal feel confident with her decision to return to school.
Krystal was interested in pursuing a career as a medical social worker, and wanted to earn the necessary academic credentials, but she found that attending collegehelped her to improve in more ways. “ACE has helped me interact with other people with more confidence, and I have become more professional. My communication skills have improved. I understand my family and friends more, and my relationships with them have gotten better.”
Krystal is currently applying for medical coordinator jobs, and has her sights set on earning a bachelor’s degree. She won’t stop there, though, and plans to write a book and become a motivational speaker.
Her words of advice? “If you are driven to go far, the ACE program is definitely where you want to start.”
Know anyone who might be interested in the ACE program? Tell us their name and how to contact them! 877-428-8092 or [email protected] or http://achieve-college-education.org/