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
–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.”
“College is for smart people, I didn’t feel smart, college is not for me.” This was the internal dialog of Shantelle Thomas before she began her higher education journey with ACE. Although Shantelle grew up in a household where plans for the future weren’t discussed, she was about to tap into the educational legacy of her family, and recognize her place in it. Shantelle is the niece of Barbara Hankinson who is a force for education in her family (see June newsletter), and cousin to Thomas Jarrett who also graduated from the ACE program and then from West Chester University in May(see September newsletter)
Shantelle’s interest in going back to school began with a very practical spark: wanting to provide a better life for her family. She knew that a degree was necessary to apply for a higher level and higher paying position, and happened to have a friend enrolled in ACE pursuing an associate degree. Her friend spoke with excitement about her experience, telling Shantelle of the support she received at the partnership site and encouraging her to give it a try. “You can do this. Start here. They will gently guide you through the process where you’re not alone.”
This encouragement and assurance that she would not have to figure everything out on her own was exactly what Shantelle needed to hear. She had to recognize that college was doable for her. It was then that earning a degree became a possibility in her mind. “If someone else did it, that inspires and encourages me. It helps me believe that I can too, and I push forward.”
Shantelle contacted an ACE staff member and set up an appointment to meet and learn more about the program. Even in that first conversation, she found the guidance and support she was looking for to apply for both the degree program of her choice and financial aid. “I didn’t understand the process and felt very defeated. But I met great people. Mr. Harold stepped in as a father figure to me. If it wasn’t for him, I would have turned away.” After enrollment and the start of classes, Shantelle found the same level of care and support at the partnership site. “The staff identified themselves as the go-to people to ask for help with any challenge you had. Anything I needed to know, those people were there for me.”
Having support doesn’t mean adding class and homework time to full time work and family life was easy. Shantelle acknowledges that it was difficult and challenging, but also realized she could handle it and thrived in the program. Graduating in 2019, Shantelle built on the foundation of confidence and success she gained through ACE and continued on to a bachelor’s degree program at Chestnut Hill College. Armed with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminal Justice as of Spring 2021, Shantelle now works exactly where she dreamed of since the beginning of her ACE journey: the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. In fact, she has already earned a promotion.
There are many among our outstanding alumni and current student body who are current or aspiring entrepreneurs. Some of you have started businesses, some are making plans for a start-up, and others are looking to begin a nonprofit to serve the community. We at I-LEAD seek to empower and equip you to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavors. One means of doing so is to remind you of and connect you with one another. Through ACE, you belong to a network of more than 1,500 people (alumni and current students) who could become business partners, advisors, investors and customers. Please share ideas for connecting on this form … In addition to the power of the network you have with one another, there are a number of local resources available for budding entrepreneurs.
Philadelphia Department of Commerce, Office of Business Services (OBS) Our business service managers offer one-on-one support to help small businesses navigate City requirements and other challenges they may encounter.
The Small Business Development Center at Temple University offers businesses and startups free one-on-one consulting focused on growth strategies, entrepreneurship based seminars and courses, technical assistance regarding the procurement of government contracts and a small business incubator. Staff bios: https://www.pasbdc.org/centers/temple-university
Operation HOPE offers small-business workshops and a more intensive entrepreneurial training program that helps participants master business basics, create and maintain a strong small business plan,and gain access to funding and resources to grow their business. Located within local banks, Operation HOPE also offers money management, credit counseling, and homeownership programs. HOPE Inside Fulton Bank, 2700 W. Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19130 Isaiah Price [email protected] (267) 223-5156 Additional locations: 1501 N. Broad St., 6500 Castor Ave.
The Entrepreneurship Center of the Urban League of Philadelphia offers coaches and consultants to assist in areas such as sales, marketing, IT, strategic planning, and training for employees and other business services.
SCORE Philadelphia is a network of volunteer business experts who provide free answers to business questions, mentoring, workshops and networking.
The Sustainable Business Network(SBN) of greater Philadelphia is a membership based organization of businesses that are committed to a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. In other words, SBN supports profitable enterprises that serve community needs, share wealth, and protect the environment. SBN offers a beginners guide to sustainable business, networking, and advocacy. Founded by Judy Wicks of the White Dog Cafe.
The Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia is home to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) that provides general business consulting, assists minority entrepreneurs to capital and new markets. Additional business services of The Enterprise Center can be found here, including a center for start-up culinary businesses.
For existing entrepreneurs, the Power Up your Business Program of the Community College of Philadelphia offers a Store Owner workshop series covering topics such as social media marketing and accounting, a 12-week Peer-Based Learning Experience covering marketing, financials, human resource and operations, insurance and legal, and Industry Best Practices workshops currently in restaurant and retail. All workshops delivered online. [email protected] 215.496.6151
CCP also hosts the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program where business owners gain practical skills in topics such as negotiation, marketing and employee management, and develop a strategic and customized growth plan to take their business to the next level. Application required