Sitting inside an empty office in Ritter Hall Annex, Jessica B. Reed looked discouraged. She was.
Jessica, then a sophomore, had just finished a tutoring session with the teacher’s assistant for macroeconomics. Jessica was still struggling to understand the coursework, so she decided to review the material once more.
“Do you realize where you’re sitting?” asked a member of Temple’s facilities management staff. “This is the Ronald McNair office.”
Jessica, now a Ronald E. McNair research scholar, made an appointment with someone from the program – which seeks to increase the number of doctoral degrees among low-income and/or minority students – the next day.
She and the facilities management staff member, Stephanie “Miss Steph” Arthur, became fast friends that summer. From lending lunch money to Jessica when she forgot her wallet to helping Jessica find more suitable attire for the summertime in Philadelphia, Miss Steph took Jessica under her wing.
Miss Steph also helped remind Jessica – who was 4,401 miles away from home – of a fundamental tenet of her upbringing: the importance of community.
Since then, Jessica has tapped into various Temple resources and, at the same time, “pays it forward” to those around her on a daily basis.
A longtime member of the NAACP, Jessica has progressed throughout the organization as a high school youth council member, an Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics state gold winner, former president of Temple’s chapter and, most recently, current president of the Pennsylvania State Youth & College Division. In each capacity, Jessica has planned and participated in many NAACP events.
As the former director of community affairs for Temple Student Government, Jessica helped implement the 3C’s Campaign, an effort to promote student-community involvement through “commitment, consistency and consciousness.”
And, as a McNair scholar, Jessica has completed three research projects, including an 18-month study of students in Temple’s education program.
“There’s a difference between teachers and educators,” Jessica says. “Educators are equipped with the tools and the knowhow to work with diverse populations.”
In the fall, she’ll continue her work in the education sector as she begins a four-year PhD program in Sociocultural and Communal Approaches at the University of Delaware. One day, Jessica would like to work with universities and school districts to improve teacher education and create a nonprofit that would cultivate young researchers.
On May 15, just three days after graduation, Jessica will join one more network: her fiancé’s family. Jessica says more than 200 people will attend her wedding to Joshua P. Thomas, a deacon at the couple’s synagogue.
Guests will include her family – who are already making the 15-hour flight to Philadelphia to see Jessica receive her diploma – as well as an important guest from her not-so-distant past, Miss Steph.
– Chelsea Calhoun
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