I’ve been thinking about connections recently - maybe you, too, can relate to this line of contemplation. It is the beginning of the year, and I was lucky enough to be able to spend the turn of the new year (and, argued by some, a new decade, though I don’t want to wade into that discussion here) with my sisters, my sister-in-law and my dad. We are scattered around the country, in the midwest, the Pacific Northwest, California and here on the East Coast, so getting together doesn’t happen nearly often enough, but when it does, it is wonderful to strengthen the bonds we have with each other. Appreciating the time together to catch up and share our lives, I welcomed the idea of how we humans create community.
Coming back to PA in a connecting state of mind, it makes sense that I am thinking about the connections we have in the Lenfest community. In my two years at the LSF, I have been delighted to get to know well the newest Scholars that are brought into the fold, and a handful of the amazing alums who I’ve either met at an alumni event or Community Weekend, or who I’ve gotten to correspond with and meet virtually. Astonished by the breadth and depth of our alumni’s experiences and opportunities, I’m all the more eager to learn more, so I’d like to open up the occasion for more alums to offer their stories. We have two chances for Lenfest alumni to talk about their journeys, proffer their wisdom and update us all on their incredible lives. Yes, incredible - I don’t use that word lightly; I am certain that whatever path you have taken is, indeed, incredible. Started a family? Wonderful! Started a company? Marvelous! Excited about a new job? Excellent! Killing it at the job you’ve had for years? Sensational! Whatever you are doing, whatever you have done, we want to hear about it. And our youngest Scholars want to know how you got to where you are. Please keep reading the newsletter to learn how to Share Updates and Share Advice to the Almost-Graduated.
As well, I’ve been thinking about connections and community because I spent a good chunk of the fall traveling to each of the 23 Lenfest partner high schools to meet with counseling staffs, teachers, administrators, Scholars and Scholar-hopefuls. My travels took me through some beautiful spaces, allowing me to wonder over the natural splendor in central PA.
I also, of course, stopped by one of my favorite haunts: Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium. (I send a huge thank you to Hannah Wright, LSF ‘19, for turning me on to this haven of elephant tchotchkes and sugar!)
As tempting as Mr. Ed’s is (and, if you have any love for candy and/or elephants, it is a must-stop destination!), my favorite part of my travels was getting into the schools. Our Lenfest partner high schools are extraordinary places - they vary in size, location and structure, but they all have dedicated staff members and students who play a critical role in the Lenfest community. In this issue of the newsletter, Wendy Sweigart from Susquehanna Township High School talks about the distinctive School of the Arts that is within that high school, advancing creativity in fashion design, visual arts and performing arts. It is unique and tremendously successfully, demonstrating that the arts can and should be fostered in schools.
Isaiah Washington, LSF ‘18, also contributed to this issue, sharing his reflections on his first semester at American University and how he is creating community. A South Western High School alum, Isaiah is a Frederick Douglass Scholar at American, where he is finding joy and sharing his wisdom with younger Lenfest Scholars, as well as with us.
Also in this issue, Eileen Kohan, the LSF Career Consultant, talks about creating a plan that allows for “headroom” in a career path. As always, she offers sound philosophy with practical steps to craft an action plan and move through your career journey successfully.
Connections drive us - career connections propel us toward where we would like to be, and biological- and chosen-family connections keep us supported, safe and cared for. Hopefully, your Lenfest community connections do a little bit of both. I’m eager to see those Lenfest connections strengthen and I am eager to hear from you!
Happy New Year to the entire Lenfest community from the Lenfest Scholars Foundation staff!