I’m a people-oriented person. I’ve always loved being a part of a community and building long-lasting relationships. I love hearing stories from other people and what they’ve been through. My philosophy in life is that everyone has a story to share, and each story is significant, no matter the size. This is a bit of my story.
I’m from Philadelphia, especially North Philadelphia. I’ve been here for 21 years of my life, and for most of that time I was just down the block from The Simple Way. I always saw their building on Westmoreland, but for a long time, I didn’t know it was them.
It wasn’t until I did a summer internship program with Esperanza Health Center that I ran into one of The Simple Way board members, Lara Lahr. She met me during one of my lunch periods while I was working as a translator. She came up to me. She said she knew who I was. She said she knew that I attending Eastern as a freshman. Then, she told me that I’d be a great candidate for The Simple Way Scholars program. They could offer support with tuition and books and my career pursuits while I was studying. Soon, she introduced me to everyone on the board.
What she didn’t know at the time was that even though I had finished my freshman year, I wasn’t going to be able to return. I had too much debt for my tuition for them to allow me to return. Many people may not realize that if that happens, financial aid won’t clear you to matriculate. My family’s back was against the wall. When I got accepted into The Simple Way Scholars, it was truly an answer to prayer.
Being at Eastern was such a gift with that background in mind, and then it got even better. I had connections with people who would ask me about my aspirations, my dreams.
My major was in journalism, my passion. The whole time I was at Eastern, I knew I was doing it for more than myself. I wanted other people in Kensington to know about my experience and to feel inspired. “If he did it down the block,” I imagine the families thinking, “then anyone is able to have this kind of outcome in their life.”
I graduated in 2019. Life has been amazing after college. I worked as an editor for a medical examiner until Esperanza Health Center reached out to me one day. They wanted a communications coordinator. I’ve been relaunching and rebranding their newsletters and being a face to the patients and staff. I like to hear what’s on everyone’s mind. Just recently, I received an offer to continue pursuing journalism for USA Today network.
It’s been an amazing journey, and I have promised myself that I will never forget where I came from. My community has such a strong bond. Neighbors care about what’s going on in your life in Kensington. They aren’t selfish. Even though we sometimes face violence and dark times, I always feel a connection and I know that my neighbors will have my back.
At the end of the day, I consider myself an ordinary person. My story shouldn’t be something that’s shocking or considered odd. We should be able to see beautiful stories like mine every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s the story of a young person who couldn’t finish high school or someone who had a bumpy road in their college career. Every person has beautiful parts to their story and we need to listen for that. That’s one of the things I so appreciate about The Simple Way. People there have a heart to meet people’s needs, yes, but they also give affection and connection. They offer people a place to talk or an embrace when a person is at their breaking point. That’s what the community is supposed to do. That’s what neighbors do.