ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington has established a new program, Sister2Sister (S2S), to improve graduation rates and develop community among women of color at the college.
Senior Ruth Brooks, co-founder of S2S, said helping these women earn their degrees is the primary objective.
“The main reason I joined Sister2Sister is to encourage women that making it to your senior year is possible by learning from others, teaching others what you learned, and growing to become a better you," she said. “One crucial tool that helped me through college is knowing and utilizing the resources around me, so one goal is to help find and share resources.”
Breshay Lewis, co-founder of S2S, explained the program's broader plan.
“We hope to build a sisterhood along the way," the senior said. "We plan social as well as professional and academic events.”
The seeds for the program were sown last fall when Tina Vance-Knight, director of Abington's Center for Career & Professional Development, noticed a pattern among young women of color whom she met on campus.
“They said they didn’t feel connected here. They would come to class and go home,” Vance-Knight, S2S adviser and unofficial mentor-in-chief, said. ”Where is the community? We are a culture of connection, and, if we don’t feel it, we don’t feel like we belong.”
“The main reason I joined Sister2Sister is to encourage women that making it to your senior year is possible by learning from others, teaching others what you learned, and growing to become a better you."
— Ruth Brooks, senior and co-founder
Programs and events that support women of color toward graduation will include academics, career services, and navigating college finances, as well as addressing larger issues such as work-life balance.
"We envision activities like vision boarding, strength finders, and working to build emotional intelligence," Vance-Knight, who recruited faculty and staff to work with Sister2Sister, said.
"We are also looking at options for larger connections perhaps with University Park," she continued. "We are dreaming about possibilities."
For now, the primary focus lies in connecting women of color with faculty and staff mentors.
"The goal is to recruit as many faculty and staff of color and anyone who wants to help develop this community," Vance-Knight said. "We want them to make connections with these women whom we are looking out for and check in with them on a regular basis."
If You Go: Sister2Sister Kickoff Meet and Greet
Date: Friday, Sept. 22, 2017
Time: Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Location: Room 1 Lares
Penn State Abington, formerly the Ogontz campus, offers baccalaureate degrees in 19 majors at its suburban location just north of Philadelphia. Nearly half of its 4,000 students complete all four years at Abington, with opportunities in undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more. Students can start the first two years of more than 160 Penn State majors at Abington and complete their degrees at University Park or another campus. Lions Gate, the first residence hall, opened in August 2017.