Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2013

Breaking barriers. ‘huRSt PaRtneRS with BooKeR t. waShington CenteR to BRing College to eRie’S inneR CitY

Story by Sue Corbran

’ Natasha Stewart , 26, is close to completing her associate degree in business through mercyhurst university at the booker T. washington center (bTwc), but that s just the frst of many goals for this ambitious young woman. after graduating with honors from east high in 2005, she worked to help her family, frst as a housekeeper and later as a chef (a job where she discovered her passion for cooking). she also had four children; her determination to make a good life for them pushed her to fnally start college in 2011. ’ she kept attending classes even when she lost her job and found herself homeless for several months. when he learned that she and her kids were sleeping in shelters, bTwc executive director bill Jefress ofered her part-time work in the center s kitchen as well as help in obtaining a home for her family. Today the family s living in that home, and natasha also runs a small restaurant called Tashas fabulous flavors, the frst step toward the restaurant/ ballroom shed one day like to operate. ’ ’ ’ ’ while still managing a full course load, natasha also launched a second business. she already has several local professionals signed up as clients for natashas cooking and cleaning services. natasha hopes to eventually pursue more degrees, up to and including a doctorate. you just have to keep pushing for your dreams, she says simply. “ ” ’ is natasha a typical bTwc student? no – but then there really isn t a typical student at mercyhursts urban education initiative in eries center city. it has made college an option for a very diverse group of students who might otherwise never have attempted it. some students are totally unprepared for college and need extra help in reading and math before they can go further. others have strong academic backgrounds, but life got in the way before they reached a college campus. ’ ’ “ ” ’ some are recent high school graduates not quite sure whether they re ready for college; others have already been working for decades. some never believed they had what it takes to succeed; others are looking for second chances to complete their degrees. mercyhurst s three year old partnership with the booker T. washington center takes education directly to all these underserved populations, breaking down barriers that kept these students out of college in the past. They can get the same high-quality education we provide at mercyhurst, but in a location close to home and at a cost that s very afordable, says president dr. Thomas gamble. it s a mission the founding sisters of mercy would approve. ’ - - “ ’ ” ’

Twaneshia Johnson and daughter Zhiya

Natasha Stewart


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