A Proud Chester Native & Community Scholar

A Proud Chester Native & Community Scholar

You don’t often get flowers while you are living, nor many awards for doing the right thing.

If you knew my story you would cry tears of joy. Making my own executive decision for my life, exactly two years ago I came back to my forgotten city of Chester, Pennsylvania from the state of Mississippi where I had begun a degree program in communications at Rust College, a four-year college. I came back to continue to serve the amazing City of Chester as well as achieve academically at another institution of higher learning. I am a Harcum Community Scholar. 

The goal was to come back to Chester and show every young person that if you believe in yourself and have hope, faith, and a great work ethic, you can not only make it out of your community, but you can also reach back.

A path less traveled is what I call it because I wanted to come home to inspire young men and young ladies to excel. Don’t listen to what anyone has to say. If you go to college or not, still live your wildest dreams and always remain consistent, humble, and develop your God-given talent to display unto the world.

During these two years, I rallied against gun violence, championed for the youth, fought against hunger with youth and adults, fought against racism, and worked within the political rim of things building relationships to make a more influential, and hopefully, lovable city.

Difference is I wanted to do it while I’m home.

Meet Stephanie Hunt

Meet Stephanie Hunt

Sometimes believing in yourself is the hardest part of the journey to success. This was the case for Stephanie Hunt who  found the ACE program from a friend who was enrolled .She had decided that continuing her education was a way to get her life back on track after it had been derailed by addiction in young adulthood. Even with more than a decade of sobriety under her belt, Stephanie wasn’t sure she could do it. ‘This is crazy me — going to college now —  at my age. Last time I was in school, I wasn’t really in school, I was in addiction.”   

Willing to put a toe in the water, Stephanie called for more information about the program. From that first conversation, site coordinator Judith Ortiz was a source of support and encouragement. “You can do this!” It was this level of caring and encouragement from Ms. Ortiz and her instructors that sustained Stephanie on her journey right up to graduation and in spite of health challenges along the way. “They helped me not give up on myself.” 

Within the first year, Stephanie exceeded her own expectations by earning a place on the President’s list. “When I opened that letter, I just started crying. I didn’t know I could have that level of success in school.” Stepanie was later inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and graduated in 2017 with an Associate Degree in Human Services. 

Several years earlier, Stephanie couldn’t imagine being where she is now. She did the hard work of recovery, founded on the love and acceptance she received from her church family and spiritual parents, Dr. Hal T. and Madelin M. Best. Accepting this love helped Stephanie to love and accept herself. This radical self acceptance fueled her journey to the successes in life she enjoys today. She has created a safe and secure home, renewed broken family relationships, and earned a promotion in her career field. She was working as a Peer Support Specialist at Aquila of Delaware when her supervisor took note of her unique blend of natural compassion and high quality program management. Now serving as Housing Manager of a woman’s home with six staff reporting to her, Stephanie creates transitional plans and provides informal group and  individual therapy for residents. Her life experience equips her to build trust with and inspire her clients at a level that surpasses other staff. As a next step, Stephanie is taking classes to become a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor and aims to join the therapeutic counseling team. She is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University with an anticipated December graduation.  

“God put people in my life to teach me how to love myself; now I do the same for others because I know their pain. I tell them recovery is possible.Your life can be different. And YOU are worth it.’”   

An Excellent Book List!

An Excellent Book List!

You may not think you have time to read a good book, but we think if you choose one of the 12 on this list that we found on www.blackmilkwomen.com, you’ll make the time to finish it! 

1. Becoming : Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the White House.

2. Educated : A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University.

3. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay

Our “30-is-the-new-20” culture tells us that the twentysomething years don’t matter. Some say they are an extended adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. But 30 is not the new 20. In this enlightening book, Dr. Meg Jay reveals how many twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation that has trivialized what are actually the most defining years of adulthood.

4. The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

5. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Falling in love is easy. Staying in love—that’s the challenge. How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands, conflicts, and just plain boredom of everyday life? The 5 Love Languages is as practical as it is insightful., you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.

6. Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle–and how to give yourself grace without giving up.

7. On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning The Hate U Give. Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

8. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittany Cooper

So what if it’s true that Black women are mad as hell? They have the right to be. In the Black feminist tradition of Audre Lorde, Brittney Cooper reminds us that anger is a powerful source of energy that can give us the strength to keep on fighting. Eloquent rage keeps us all honest and accountable. It reminds women that they don’t have to settle for less. This book argues that ultimately feminism, friendship, and faith in one’s own superpowers are all we really need to turn things right side up again.

9. Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine by Emily Bernard

Profound, compelling, relatable, and full of purpose. A new and important addition to the conversation of race and privilege going on in America right now. Ms. Bernard shares the story of her stabbing, her black physical body and also her black cultural body experience.

10. Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land

Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients. Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

11. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown

Leadership is not about titles, status, and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential. But daring leadership in a culture defined by scarcity, fear, and uncertainty requires skill-building around traits that are deeply and uniquely human. In this new book, Brown uses research, stories, and examples to answer these questions in the no-BS style that millions of readers have come to expect and love.

12. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.


ACE for Foster Care

ACE for Foster Care

We recently partnered with Delta Family Services, an organization that provides foster care services to youth and young adults primarily in Philadelphia. If you’ve ever been in the foster care system, or know someone who has, you know how complicated it can be to try to stand on your feet, especially when you age out. 

For those unfamiliar, ‘aging out’ refers to turning 18 and realizing you have three years of support to get yourself launched into your adult life. Decisions need to be made about where you are going to live, what kind of work you want to do and whether or not to go to college or into a training program. It’s a lot to ask of an 18-year old!

For someone in the system who goes to college, the benefits can be enormous. Assistance with housing and general living expenses now can continue until age 26. And students will receive an education grant — commonly known as the Chafee grant — until age 26. Combined with Pell grants and the PHEAA grant, youth aging out and young adults with histories in the system can practically go to college for free. 

For this year only, until September 30, the maximum Chafee grant has been increased from $5,000 to $12,000 . To qualify, individuals must complete a financial aid application (FAFSA) and enroll in college within the next month or two to qualify for that money. 

IF YOU KNOW ANYONE who aged out of the foster care system and will be age 26 or under in September 2021, tell them to get in touch with us right away. They can come back into the Chafee program and earn a college degree debt- free through ACE and Harcum College. You can get more information by contacting [email protected]

Meet Amara Coles.

Meet Amara Coles.

“College to me means stability.” Amara was working in the restaurant industry when the pandemic hit. Furloughed and then laid off from the job, she determined she wanted a more stable and sustainable source of income. Looking around at those who stayed employed during covid, she noticed they had something in common – a college degree. “I asked everyone around me – my restaurant friends, my social worker, city council members – I learned that college puts you in a much better position in terms of income and employment.” 

Amara wasn’t sure about school at first either. “I was listening to everyone saying it’s a waste of time, people don’t use their degrees. But I learned education is NOT a waste of time. You get a degree and you can use it in all kinds of jobs.” 

She is now pursuing an associate degree in human services, but admits she needed convincing. A persistent social worker kept reaching out and telling Amara that she had an incredible opportunity to go to college for free as a foster youth and didn’t rest until Amara enrolled in the program.* And that kind of support has continued with program staff checking in on her progress, asking if she needed help, and teachers making sure she understood the lessons. “At other places, you’re just thrown in, but this program provides consistent and personal support every step of the way.” 

Equipped with the gift of gab, Amara has even found online classes to be easier than in-person classes because they are distraction-free. “I tried the one semester to see if I could do it, and found out that I liked it more.” 

Amara is planning for a career in the behavioral health field, looking to help foster youth whose behavioral health needs are often overlooked. As a counselor in a crisis unit, she will be able to provide kids with the services and support they need that she didn’t have growing up.  

One of the oldest in a large family, Amara is modeling educational success for her younger siblings. “Where do you plan on being in the next two years? How far do you think you’re going to get with the job you have?” She will go on to demonstrate that a college degree equips you for a career where you can make a financially stable future for yourself. 

*The Chafee ETG grant and Pennsylvania’s tuition waiver program offer former and current foster youth aging out of care the opportunity to attend college without incurring debt for tuition related expenses. 

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!

If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!

Participants in the Harcum Community Scholars Leadership Program recently completed a section where they explored their Visions and Values. The reason to do this is to discover what is most important to you, your personal values and what you want for your life. Visioning work explores various aspects of our lives — health, career, family, faith and community. Students in the Leadership Program said that this section was one of the most powerful in the entire program so we thought we’d share it with all of you. And remember, the Leadership program is totally free for Harcum Community Scholars. There will be a new cohort forming for September. If you want to participate, send an email to [email protected]. 

Write a description of what you want to create in your life within each focal area in your journal at least once a week. Don’t worry about whether your vision is practical, possible or feasible. This practice requires you to dream in an unconstrained way about what you truly desire for your life and for those with whom you are in relationships.

As you describe your visions, reflect upon your fundamental values: What do you care about in your life and why? Writing down your visions and values is a powerful practice that engages you in a dialogue with yourself about the future you want to create. This practice helps you to develop the belief that you can create, shape and improve your life, which is called a growth mindset.

Step by Step

  • Select three to five focal areas that have a strong meaning to you as you think about your future. Examples are health, family, career, faith and community.
  • Select a medium for your journal that you can always access. This could be a notebook that you keep with you, or an online space you can easily access.
  • Select a time of the week when you have peace and privacy and at least one hour to write in your journal.
  • Within each focal area, write down your thoughts about these questions: What do you want to create? Why and toward what end? How are you doing so far? What values underlie your creative visions for yourself? Be fearlessly honest with yourself. Try to explore your deepest and most passionate visions for your life.
  • Return each week to build upon your reflections about these questions.

The full suite of Leadership Practices can be found in David Castro’s new book Inward Sun, available for purchase from amazon here.