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.
Philadelphia is a city in a park, which means there’s always green space, towering trees and stunning landscapes to be found just a heartbeat away from Center City. Check out all the ways to get outside this weekend without leaving the city:
Look for impressive floral displays at shops, delicious deals at restaurants and live musical performances throughout the neighborhood during the final weekend of East Passyunk Garden Days Friday and Sunday.
Explore 13 parks across the city during the Love Your Park Scavenger Hunt, which offers a $20-level Fairmount Park Conservancy membership to those who complete the full mission by Monday.
Head to Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania starting Saturday to see the Garden Railway display, featuring a quarter-mile track with seven loops and tunnels, 15 different rail lines, two cable cars and nine bridges, including a trestle bridge that visitors can walk under.
We all have wake up moments. Sometimes they have to do with our current pattern of life and its contrast with our desired futures. Sometimes these moments generate a new outlook or perspective about ourselves and our relationship to others. Sometimes, it’s all of the above.
Wake-up moments for Nazia Adekyami are in the all of the above category. Nazia became a mother at the young age of 19 and had to be immediately very practical about employment and training after high school. Many around her were in the health field as CNAs and her grandmother told her CNAs always have a job. Ten years of life went by and while Nazia’s family had grown, her paycheck had not. She was struggling to pay rent, her car broke down, and with the inconsistent work schedule of a CNA, it was hard to have quality time with her daughters. “I couldn’t be an effective parent if I was always worried about food, clothing, and shelter. Something needed to change.“
Wake up moment #1. Recognizing things were not going the way she wanted, Nazia imagined where she wanted to be at age 50. “I wanted to not struggle all the time, to have a level of comfort and stability.” She took pen to paper and wrote down the kind of life she wanted. Then she asked a key question, “What can I do now to get there?” Asking and answering this question translates the want for a better life from the mind into tangible actions in the now. For Nazia, earning a college degree was part of the answer.
A local resident, Nazia learned about and enrolled in the partnership site program in Chester as a Human Services major. This program was the right fit for Nazia. “I had to cross off every excuse I’ve had for not continuing.” Classes were around the corner from home, so she could walk to class in case the car broke down, and took place during evening hours, so she could work and go to school. Nazia also appreciated the family atmosphere of the site. Partnership site staff offered constant encouragement and ensured students stayed on track. Rather than being a number, instructors knew the students, and students supported one another through life experiences and struggles shared as part of classroom discussion. In Nazai’s case, experiencing the partnership site as a family took on another level of meaning when she met and married a math instructor in the program! “By the end of math 113, we were a couple and my husband was a groomsman in the wedding of another partnership site couple.” (see Drue and Michael Bailey, February newsletter).
Alongside the joy of new love came the sacrifice going to college required for this working single parent. Nazia worked as a CNA overnight from 11 to 7, returned home to get her children ready for and delivered to school, and then went to a second client from 9 -12. 12 – 2 was reserved for cooking dinner and doing her own schoolwork before picking her daughters up from school. On two evenings per week, this routine was followed by Nazia attending college classes from 5-9. “It was difficult, But when I walked across that stage and got my degree with my children clapping for me from the front row, it was worth it.” Throughout the program, Nazia knew her daughters were watching her, but perhaps didn’t realize how closely. Witnessing all of her mom’s hard work was Nazia’s oldest daughter who later told her, “Mom, watching you get up early to make sure your assignments were done, staying up late at night, and going to work motivated me to be the best student I could be.”
Wake up moment #2 predated but prepared Nazia for her postsecondary journey. While looking for the office of her daughter’s new pediatrician, Nazia asked for directions from a counselor whose office was nearby. She enjoyed their conversation and kind spirit of this woman, and took her up on an invitation to return for a session. As is standard for a first counseling session, Nazia was asked to talk about her family background and experience growing up. The counselor listened as she spoke matter of factly about growing up with a single mother whose addition meant she wasn’t around for her young daughter. From age 8 to 14, Nazia lived with her grandmother, followed by difficult housing situations until age 19. “I’ve been through a lot.” Nazia didn’t realize how much she had to share and before she knew it, time was up for the first session. On her way out, the counselor said gently, “You’ve experienced a lot of trauma in your life.”
“Trauma?,” Nazia thought to herself. ”It was the first time I had ever been told that the things I had gone through were traumatic; it was just the norm in the community.” Through counseling, Nazia learned that wounds she thought time had taken care of were still very much affecting her as an adult. She accepted and opened herself to this realization and it was then that her journey toward real healing began.
With a passion for helping people, it came quickly to Nazia’s mind that many other people likely have the same story. “How can I help them be more aware and cognizant that things from childhood affect you in adulthood?”
Wake-up moment #3. The seed for her training company, No More Trauma Consulting, was planted. No More Trauma consulting is an organization that assists and supports adults with identifying and healing unresolved childhood trauma. Her vision began to develop while in the Human Services program, as she strengthened her skills in listening, empathy and self-awareness through classroom-based case studies and role plays. Though graduating with the class of 2017, it wasn’t until 2020 that Nazia founded her company. “I always equate things like this to being pregnant and giving birth. I was pregnant with an idea, but it wasn’t quite time to give birth. It still had to grow, develop, and get strong so it could survive.” Nazia also felt she needed to grow personally to be an effective Life Coach. “LIke I tell my clients, I had to do my own work.”
Nazia is currently shaping the No More Trauma training curriculum into an online, self-paced course that concludes with an individual coaching session. In the meantime, she has become an author! “Sumaya’s Secret” tells the story of a young African-American Muslim woman’s struggle with identity and self-discovery. Click here to learn more about Nazia and Sumaya’s Secret.
Want to get the kids (and yourself) offline to unwind this weekend? How about a scavenger hunt? Or hunting for treasure via geocaching? You don’t have to travel far to reconnect with nature. Here are some easily accessible park and nature trail links for both the easy strollers and the adventurous spirits.
Create your own scavenger hunt for your family. Have players collect items or take pictures with a phone. Ideas: Natural Objects (unique leaf, smooth stone, a seed); Errands (grocery store seek and find); Neighborhood (landmarks, lawn decor, signs, get people to wave at a window); Alphabet (find the letters on a walk, count objects that start with a letter). Apps to help: Goosechase, Huntzz
Geocaching. Look for “treasures” hidden by others in woods, forests, parks, and paths using mapping technology. Waze meets seek-n-find. Create a free account at Geocaching.Com to find cache locations nearby.
Go roller skating in Center City. Yup. Rothman Orthopaedics Roller Rink at Dilworth Park. Guests will find a colorful overhead installation and music that delivers retro vibes outside. Advance reservations for hour-long skate sessions are required.
To the Parks!
Wissahickon Valley Park. Explore the Wissahickon’s seven miles of creek, 1800 acres of forested gorge, and 50-plus miles of trails. Here’s a guide for your experience: https://fow.org/visit-the-park/maps/ + a map app.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. 8601 Lindbergh Blvd. Have a stroll and observe thehundreds of species of plants, trees, birds, insects and mammals with whom we humans share the planet. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/john_heinz/
Gray’s Ferry Crescent Trail Park https://www.schuylkillbanks.org/explore with entry at 1300 Schuylkill Avenue is an urban green space with river & skyline views, a hiking & biking path, a skate park & fishing areas. Access points available from Bartram’s Garden in southwest Philly to 34th and Wharton to the Art Museum area. Consider doing Bartram’s Mile (west bank of the Schuylkill River between Grays Ferry Avenue and 56th Street). See trail map for details: https://www.schuylkillbanks.org/trail-map
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Located in northwest Philadelphia and one of the first urban environmental centers in the country. Explore 340 acres of fields, forests, ponds and streams.https://www.schuylkillcenter.org/
You did it! Your hard work and dedication to invest in yourselves has (and will) paid off!!! Congratulations for persisting through the chaos covid-19 brought to your college and learning experience. And though it’s continued presence prevents an in-person commencement, your achievements are no less celebrated and honored by the I-LEAD and Harcum community. WAY TO GO!!!
The late nights of paper writing and long evenings with zoom have been worth it to get to this moment. You have kept your vision to earn a college degree front of mind and heart and made it happen. We hope you are as proud of you as we are!
Please keep in touch and tell us what’s next! We know our students have their eyes on the prize. What job move can now be pursued? What promotion is on the horizon? Who among family member(s) and friends are inspired to earn their degree because of your example and achievement? How do you see yourself now compared to that first class? And (you knew this was coming…) Where are you going for your Bachelor’s Degree? We’d love to hear! Reach out to us: [email protected]
Congratulations. Celebrate. And breathe it in. You are a warrior. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
A retired grandmother. An image of a woman sitting and knitting quietly on the porch comes to mind, right? Not this grandmother!!! Barbara Blunt is a self-described “mover-and-shaker.” After 25 years as a home health aide, a restful retirement may seem in order. But Ms. Blunt had no plans to stay at home. Instead, she enrolled in college upon seeing a sign for the ACE program at a church in the neighborhood. For Barbara, it was a natural next step to gain the skills for her “retirement” career – a real estate business. “I knew I needed more education.”
Alongside her enrollment in college was Ms. Blunt’s election to serve as President of the Board of the Senior Citizen Council in her senior housing complex. Expressions of surprise at her from other members regarding her enrollment in college were met with a strong smile and the solid encouragement, “You can do it too.” Ms. Blunt put the skills she was learning in Human Services classes immediately to work, helping residents to solve problems and representing them at public meetings. “The program prepared me to do what I love most – helping people.”
Ms. Blunt became an integral part of the supportive atmosphere she found at the partnership site. Instructors, staff, and students were always helping each other to succeed. She was able to share her opinions, knowledge, and goals which strengthened her confidence while earning a degree.
While Ms. Blunt notes the inspiration she gained through the aspirations and achievements of her classmates, she has inspired generations of her family to further their education. “I am the mother of two and grandmother of 12. Almost all of my grandchildren have gone to college or aspire to go. My daughter tells me, “Mom that’s because of you.”
Shout out to all the Moms among our students and alumni! You are loved and appreciated. We know how hard you work and are always doing for others. Be encouraged to make some time for self-care amidst all the caring you do. Enjoy your day and soak in the love of your family!
There is no single poem that can express the job, the wonder, the joy, the transforming nature of motherhood. An assembly of quotations and reflections from a variety of voices felt more apt.
“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” Jill Churchill
“Birth takes a woman’s deepest fears about herself and shows her that she is stronger than them.” Unknown
“The strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” Barbara Kingsolver
The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” Honore’ de Balzac
“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” Nancy Friday
“For when a child is born the mother also is born again.” Gilbert Parker
“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Jewish proverb
“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” Author Unknown
“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Milton Berle
“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” Sophia Loren
“My mother’s love has always been a sustaining force for our family, and one of my greatest joys is seeing her integrity, her compassion, her intelligence reflected in my daughters.” Michelle Obama
“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” Maya Angelou
“Being a mom has made me so tired. And so happy.” Tina Fey
“Having children puts the whole world into perspective. Everything else just disappears.” Kate Winslet
“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
“I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is.” Oprah Winfrey
“Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Unknown
“I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” E.M. Forster
“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” Cardinal Meymillod
“Motherhood is the greatest thing and the hardest thing.” Rikki Lake
“Motherhood changes everything.” Adriana Trigiani
“There is nothing in the world of art like the songs mother used to sing.” Billy Sunday
“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” Robert Browning
“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.” Sophocles
“There is such a special sweetness in being able to participate in creation.” Pamela S. Nadav
“[My mother] had handed down respect for the possibilities—and the will to grasp them.” Alice Walker
“Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.” Maria Shriver
It’s FAFSA Renewal Time! For all who are in school or know someone who is, the due date for renewing the FAFSA is fast approaching: May 1st. Don’t let money for education slip through your fingers! It can be completed in much less time than binge watching the latest Netflix series…;). If you filed a tax return this year, your application or renewal can be done even faster through the auto transfer of data from one federal form to another. https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa If anyone needs assistance completing a FAFSA please reach out to us: [email protected]
Directly from the Federal Student Aid site:
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form applies to a single academic year. That means you need to submit a FAFSA form each year—and make sure you meet the FAFSA deadlines for state and college aid to maximize the aid you could receive. When you log in to renew your FAFSA form, it’s prefilled with certain information from the prior academic year. You’ll need to provide new income and tax information and update any information that may have changed.
Follow These Instructions to Renew Your FAFSA® Form