The close of 2020 was a glad event for many of us. It was even sweeter for Faith Bartley, who graduated in December from the ACE Partnership Site program of Harcum College at Deliverance with an Associate Degree in Human Services. Faith chose to begin her college journey with ACE because of the convenient schedule and familiar faces found at Deliverance. The choice to pursue higher education in general stemmed from a desire to elevate her mind. Evidence of that commitment to personal growth is readily found in her work with the People’s Paper Co-Op of the Village of Arts and Humanities. Here, she recycles paper from old criminal records into handcrafted journals and canvas for original art; literally transforming the histories of women with criminal backgrounds into fresh blank pages on which they can imagine and create new stories. Proceeds from the sale of journals and artwork fund bail payments for mothers who cannot post cash bail so they can remain at home with their children until the next court proceeding.
Recently, Faith and her work with the People’s Paper Co-op was shared on 6ABC’s program Visions. Below is the text of the story as narrated in the video clip (linked to title and worth enduring the preceding 30 second advertisement!).
Inside the Village of Arts and Humanities, Faith Bartley is hand-making paper, creating what will be the canvas for art or the pages of a hand-crafted journal.
The art is an exercise in healing. The paper is made from old criminal records, including Bartley’s own, creating a symbolic and clean slate for the women to re-enter society and embark on a fresh start.
Bartley grew up in North Philadelphia with, as she says, a mom who was addicted to drugs and a dad missing in action.
She also turned to drugs and did several stints in prison. Every time she got out, she vowed not to go back in, but the high school graduate and Army veteran couldn’t convince anyone to hire her.
Then she found the People’s Paper Co-Op, a place that would teach her how to make paper and how to advocate for women still behind bars.
For Mother’s Day, the women sell their art to raise money for moms who can’t post cash bail. The past two years, they’ve raised more than $120,000 for the Mama’s Day bailout
By Wendy Daughenbaugh
Art for sale: http://peoplespaperco-op.weebly.com/
Novena Chanzu was an early childhood teacher in Kenya. Her mother, already a long time resident of the United States, longed to reunite the family. In 2014, green card approvals finally came through and Novena, her daughter, and her brother joined their mother in Upper Darby. Understanding the importance of higher education to her career, she immediately began to look for a suitable college where she could earn a degree in early childhood education. But how could she pursue a college degree while continuing to work full time in the education field and have time for family?
Enter the Achieve College Education (ACE) program which offered Novena exactly what she was looking for: evening college classes at a convenient location. “At age 38, I was able to go to school close to home, full-time, and complete courses in seven weeks. I could study, work, and still be a mother.” With the ACE program, Novena never had to choose between supporting her family and achieving her goal of getting a college education. “ACE allows you to live your life while going to school.”
Novena liked the small class sizes and the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with professors. Even as a new resident of the U.S., Novena felt a sense of belonging and enjoyed the supportive atmosphere created by program staff and fellow students.
Now in Indiana, Novena plans to continue her education and pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Purdue University. Her ultimate goal is obtain a Ph.D. so she can teach at the college level. She wants to share her experience, encourage others to recognize the importance of education, and know that their academic goals are within reach.
“Creativity” is one of those buzzwords that gets tossed around a lot. How many times a week do you encounter messages in magazine articles, on websites, in books, that tell you to be creative, to think creatively? We are told to be creative at our jobs, in our parenting, in our daily lives. But what, exactly, does that mean?
In everyday life, our creativity enables us to cope, adapt to various circumstances, and solve new problems. This means creativity in everyday life is beyond our artistic hobbies, blog writing, or playing with our kids. It is a real resource we use for serious everyday decision-making and problem solving. Creativity helps us to adapt to change, the most constant and the scariest thing in our human life. You don’t have to draw, write or paint to be creative. To live a creative life is a decision and it can become simply the habit of noticing beauty, expressing your emotions, or finding new solutions that challenge the status quo.
Every ACE student is living creatively! You challenged the status quo that said a working adult with kids could not earn a college degree. You made the decision to not just adapt to change, but to invite it into your life when you decided to go to college. Being a college student demands that you find creative ways to handle all of your many responsibilities and also figure out how to make room for classes and homework.
To be even more conscious of and deliberate about living creatively, here are a couple of exercises to explore.
- We all develop certain patterns of behavior throughout our lives. Identify examples of behaviors you use to react to certain circumstances. It could be something like how you show your impatience when you have to wait in line, or impatience with your kids when they don’t do what you ask them to do.
Then make an action plan of shifting from the usual way of dealing with frustrating situations to the opposite. For example: from giving orders to asking questions and listening to the answers; from being serious to taking a playful or humorous approach. Use a journal to keep track of the behavior you want to change and your success at doing so over a few weeks.
- Identify something you have done every day in the same way for a very long time. What opportunities might there be to change and experience something new? For example: experiment with new food, different music ordress, spend time with people in a unique way, take a different way home, use a different type of transportation. Write about the experience in your journal to make the exercise more powerful.
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:
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 bachelors degrees from Lincoln University, will complete studies for their masters degrees in May, 2021, and be inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society for Social Sciences. 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.
“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!