CU Scholars Give Back to Community and Gain in Return
November 17, 2016
Two dozen Keystone Honors Academy (KHA) Scholars from Cheyney U and Nicole Gay Rayfield, KHA's Director of Student Programs, recently spent two days volunteering at the Coatesville Shelter for Young Women and Children, where they gained much from the experience
Two dozen Keystone Honors Academy (KHA) Scholars, accompanied by Nicole Gay Rayfield, KHA's Director of Student Programs, spent Monday and Tuesday at Coatesville Shelter for Young Women and Children. Over the course of both days, students travelled to the shelter to clean, prep and paint recreational space used by the facility’s residents. While the scope of their service was limited to preparing the room, the students gained more than a few paint smears.
Upon arrival, students received a warm welcome from Rick, a full-time volunteer who gave a brief overview of the many services offered to homeless mothers and the community at large. They also heard from new volunteer, Earl, who shared his motivational tale of academic success, earning his degree from Villanova University over a 12 year period while incarcerated for a crime committed 43 years ago when he was only 17. He could only take one class a semester while in prison.
"A college degree is something we all definitely need in life," Earl told the honors students. "We, as a race, are at a disadvantage, and we need to have everything we possibly can going on for us. It begins with education.” Sharing his own personal challenges, he stated, “A lot of people are going to be relying on you all to guide the way. That’s pressure, that’s struggle, that’s fight. But when you make it in the end, you’re going to be able to give back. That’s what I’m trying to do. All of you are going to make it. You had people pave the way for you, now you pave the way for somebody else. You will love the reward.”
Next, Roger Wayne, Special Projects Coordinator at the Coatesville shelter, shared that he works as a liaison between corporations and service organizations, providing facility improvement and adequate living conditions such as food for those in need. As Director of the Performing Arts program at the shelter, Wayne trains, instructs, and sets up performances. He also directs the community service personnel who are asked to commit to community service instead of incarceration. Wayne prides himself in teaching “poverty seminars” which involve going out to organizations and sharing the mindset of someone in poverty versus someone in the middle class, as well as how to help those in poverty.
In addition to the shelter for women and children, the organization helps people with drug and alcohol dependency and assists young families outside the facility find affordable housing.
Wayne loves his job as a Special Projects Coordinator--the challenges as well as the many people that he gets to know and help. The biggest hurdle, he says, is funding, despite getting support locally, federally and from the state.
"We don’t get enough money in here to keep the facility alive," he shares. "Another big challenge is getting food to people. We give food out to people who are unable to work. My biggest challenge is getting food to people in Coatesville who are homebound, and ladies who work minimum wage but can’t get here to subsidize their income by getting food." He also cites the need for a security system after a number of valuables were stolen.
The Director of Coatesville shelter for Young Women and Children, Mimi Wheeler, has woked at the shelter for 30 years. Despite racial tensions in Coatesville, Wheeler started the youth program by including all races, a move that not everyone supported. " I don’t regret it all. Despite my life and my family’s life being at risk, I would take that stand again," she assures.
The KHA students engaged in the service project learned that compassion is needed to support those who have no support.
“One of the problems of people in poverty is the isolation. It’s really important that you get involved," Wayne urged. "What you’re trying to do is cultivate a heart for people. Social intelligence will get you further in society than anything else, regardless of how many degrees you have. You get social intelligence by working with people, connecting with human beings. This is the most important thing you can do in your college life. Do so by volunteering at various places. You will be wealthier in your heart.”