FAFSA Renewal Time!

FAFSA Renewal Time!

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

  1. Log in with your FSA ID username and password at fafsa.gov. Learn what to do if you forgot your FSA ID username or password.
Meet Regla Baez.

Meet Regla Baez.

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Regla Baez watched her parents and those around her struggle just to get by. She wanted a different life for her future and knew she needed to surpass her parents’ ninth grade education and graduate high school. 

Proud to be the first in her family to graduate high school, Regla learned that a diploma still wasn’t enough. No one around her was pursuing a college education so it didn’t seem necessary at the time. But finding herself pregnant at age 20, she was soon lugging a heavy stroller on and off two buses to get to a retail job that didn’t and would never provide enough income for herself and her daughter. It was in those moments on the bus platform, literally weighed down by this laborious routine, that she knew she needed to do something different. “This just wasn’t going to work anymore. I don’t want my daughter to think this is a way of life.” 

To secure a more consistent work schedule and paycheck than retail provided, Regla obtained an entry level position with SPIN, an organization in Northeast Philadelphia serving individuals with developmental disabilities. As a single mom, however, the need for immediate earnings demanded her full attention and she couldn’t focus on continuing her education. But Regla started noticing positions open up within the organization, and they all required a degree. 

During her tenure with SPIN, Regla started and stopped out of a few college programs, largely online. She acquired some college credits, but had not completed a degree. And with expensive online classes and no guidance about how financial aid worked, Regla had exhausted available grants and loans.  

Learning about the ACE program through a parishioner of the Deliverance Partnership Site, she found a perfect fit for her situation. Regla could attend class two nights per week and be in a face to face learning environment. She used tuition reimbursement benefits from her job to pay for classes and then paid off an affordable balance. She appreciated being in class with other adult learners who were investing in themselves while balancing family, work and school. Further, Regla was able to apply all previously earned credits to her Harcum degree.  

It was not easy, but Regla pushed through drawing on her own personal strength and determination, and the inspiration of being a role model to her (now) two daughters. 

Currently, Regla is the Director of Human Resources at SPIN, having worked her way up from an initial position as a Direct Support Professional. This past year, she boldly and successfully led the talent acquisitions team through the transition from an in-person to a virtual recruiting environment as necessitated by co-vid. Eight classes short of a bachelor’s degree, she is committed to finishing by 2022. No doubt she will make it happen. What she has already accomplished through her life should be celebrated – breaking the cycle of the struggle she witnessed growing up. In her Mom’s footsteps, Regla’s eldest daughter is enrolled in college and on her own path to success.

Scholarships! Scholarships! Scholarships!

Scholarships! Scholarships! Scholarships!

The other way to get your hands on some money for school. Yes, they require research. Yes, they require a written application. And also yes, they are the equivalent of grants and can reduce or eliminate student loan debt. Even scholarships of smaller amounts add up and can pay for books, or free up money set aside for tuition that can be applied to one of those other expenses that always comes up. Set a doable goal to apply for five to ten scholarships per month. And here’s a headstart – we have it from the source that the following scholarships are in need of applicants (hurry, some applications are due April 30th!): 

Zeta Omicron Delta Alpha Phi Alpha (African-American males graduating from a Philadelphia high school)  https://smr.to/p71755

Luther and Mary Ida Vandross Fund (any HBCU, nationally)  https://smr.to/p71748

Feinstein Fund (high academic)   https://smr.to/p71738

Richard Ash Fund https://smr.to/p71749

Colman Witte Fund (art, architecture and interior design)  https://smr.to/p71710

GSK Opportunity Scholarship https://smr.to/p71743

Delta Iota Chapter (for Cheyney female leaders) https://app.smarterselect.com/programs/71735-Philadelphia-Foundation 

Additional scholarships can be found at: philafound.org/findscholarships

Vaccine for All in Philly

Vaccine for All in Philly

The choice to receive or not receive the co-vid vaccine is a personal one. Some have taken a wait and see approach expressing concern over the speed at which the vaccines went from development to delivery. Others have been confused and frustrated trying to determine if and when they may become eligible for the vaccine and how to sign up. For those in the second category who are Philadelphia residents, an announcement was made this week that starting April 19, all residents 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine.

The announcement also invited additional categories of workers to join the ranks of the vaccinated even sooner. As of April 5, sanitation workers, maintenance and janitorial workers, utility workers and postal delivery workers became eligible. Starting Monday, April 12, the rest of the city’s Phase 1C — including a number of essential workers who cannot work remotely — will be eligible as well. 

The new schedule puts Philadelphia on track with the rest of the state, building on the 566,733 vaccinations already administered in the city, 318,604 of whom are fully vaccinated. According to recent state data, Pennsylvania as a whole has administered 5,702,677 vaccinations which means that 35.2% of the state’s eligible population has received a first dose and 2,037,055 people have been fully vaccinated. In the immediate region, New Jersey is on a parallel pace of vaccination and Delaware expanded eligibility to all residents 16 and older on April 6th. 

Reported by Hannah Chin for WHYY News Daily, 4/6/2021 

Meet Sharon Birckett.

Meet Sharon Birckett.

Can a college degree shift from a dream to reality when you’re a young mother, on your own and homeless? It’s more than possible. It was done by graduate Sharon Birckett. 

College was something Sharon had wanted to do, but life seemed to keep putting it off. She had learned about Harcum’s partnership site program in Coatesville from a friend’s mother who worked in the education field, but without permanent housing, childcare or transportation, could not get her head around making it happen. Sharon just wasn’t ready at the time but for two years, earning a degree remained on her mind. Then, even though circumstances had not changed, she made a decision. ‘It started to seem like ready was never coming. I looked at my daughter and myself and decided ‘I need change. And nothing will change if I don’t make it happen.” 

Sharon regathered the information she had learned about the program the year before and reconnected with site coordinator Sondra Brewer to apply and enroll. Upon joining the program, Sharon encountered a support network she didn’t have in her life. She learned that she wasn’t alone in her struggles, other students were also young mothers and going through difficult life challenges. She found an on-site coach in Ms. Brewer who encouraged and supported Sharon day in and day out, class in and class out to keep going. She learned from instructors who also offered encouragement and motivation, even giving Sharon some tough love when she needed it. And when that internal voice of self-doubt grew too loud, her aunt, who had walked a similar path and could speak from the other side, expressed assured confidence in Sharon’s ability to succeed. Her fellow students, site coordinator and instructors became a team who gave her the drive to continue when some days she just couldn’t find it herself. 

Not only did making the decision to go back to school generate a support network for Sharon, but she came to learn that one of her employers had a childcare benefit and could provide transportation. In her third semester, Sharon also moved to her own apartment.  

But it was Sharon who found and channeled her inner strength into earning a degree, day by day, week by week, semester by semester. Without pretense, Sharon says honestly, “It was hard. I wanted to quit every day.” Working two jobs and going to school, Sharon was severely sleep deprived and had very little time with her daughter. But she knew earning a degree would pave the way to a better life in the long term. “I wanted to show her that you don’t quit when things get tough.” 

And Sharon did not quit. She graduated a semester early in October of 2020 with an associate degree in human services. “When my degree came in the mail, I cried tears of relief and rejoicing.” Sharon is not putting off furthering her education this time around and is in the process of identifying a bachelor’s degree program to begin this fall. 

Congratulations Sharon. You earned that degree! We hope you are as proud of yourself as we are.

The Answer to Busy-ness

The Answer to Busy-ness

Serenity NOW!!! A shout from all of our souls at times, and assuredly desired, if not voiced, far more frequently over the past year. Of course the path to peace is hardly immediate, but the reflection shared below on the well-known serenity prayer suggests some changes in perspective that may help pave the way.

“One thing that has struck me during this year, as I have weathered fears of this pandemic, worries for my family, homeschooling teenagers and dealing with anxious and grieving clientele, has been the ever-increasing responsibilities and worries that come with working from my home and trying to keep myself…well… myself…as this seemingly endless crisis unfolds. One thing that has kept me, largely, sane during this time, has been reflection on the wisdom contained within the serenity prayer. All of it, sure, but specifically the first 4 lines:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To understand how this has affected me, and how it has changed the ways in which I viewed myself and my life during this pandemic, it might be helpful to break down the components which have been most impactful.

Serenity: the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
What does that even mean right now as we have political upheaval, an invisible, yet persistent threat to all that we hold dear, and constant worries about work, money, family, and self? You name it, we fear for it. And yet, serenity is possible. HOW?

By accepting the things we cannot change.
As much as I would like to, I cannot change the fact that this pandemic exists. I cannot change the fact that it is an ever-present threat over the lives of those I know and love and those that I have yet to know and love. There is nothing I can do to change that. Focusing on my fear of dying or of my loved ones dying does nothing but keep me locked in a cycle of anxious worry and pain. Yes, I think about it. No, I do not dwell on it. And in those moments that I am not dwelling on the fear and stress brought on by this pandemic, I encounter something bordering on peace.

Courage to change the things I can
During this time, it feels like my work has increased tenfold. At the beginning, and sometimes still, I found myself working 12-hour days. So much to be done, no commute, no excuse. But, when I do that, the stress creeps up and begins to destroy that momentary sense of peace that I had worked so hard to foster. Then, I remember, I need to have courage to change the things that I can. So instead of answering the frantic, (non-emergency), email or text I receive from a client or coworker at 2 AM on Saturday, I wait until my workday begins on Monday. I stop myself from working into the night or worse, waking up in the middle of the night and jumping on the computer with a deadline on my mind, frantically working at the projects that are indeed important, but are not worth my peace of mind. The result? I sometimes miss deadlines. But guess what? My serenity was worth it. Which leads me to the next point:

The Wisdom to know the difference.
This pandemic has led me to be busier than I have ever been. I have work and health and kids and school to juggle on a constant basis. If I let it, these burdens would fill my every waking moment, and rob me of joy. The thing is some of these things are not going to be impacted by me. Ever. I know that I, with my worrying, cannot stop this pandemic from threatening my life and those of my loved ones. I know that I cannot worry the world into a place where we love and accept each other for who we are, and do not fight over trivial things such as skin color or political affiliation.

There are, however, some things I CAN change. I can treat my body as well as I can, make good choices about food and exercise, interact with my family from afar, and start and stop my workday at a reasonable time. I can demonstrate love and acceptance for everyone I encounter, online or off. I can, and frankly must do those things, for the sake of my peace.

But I will not do them perfectly. I will miss deadlines and work too much or too little. I will sometimes be angry and unloving. I will mess up, over, and over again. And THAT is another one of those things I cannot change, which of course takes me to my last point:

Forgiving ourselves for our shortcomings, and others for theirs, having compassion on ourselves for the fact that we are human, and frail, and scared, and imperfect…in this frankly terrifying and difficult time, is the only way to maintain a few moments of serenity.

Try it.

I can absolutely guarantee that the world will not end if you stop worrying about it for a few moments, or hours, or days, while you take a breath.

Be Well.

from Sassy’s Blog of the Women’s Resource Center, named for the very astute cat of WRC’s Clinical Director and Resource Coordination Counselor, Kai Qualls, M.A., LPC. The theme of the Blog is Resilience, which is especially timely given our shared uncertainty during the COVID-19 crisis.