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.