Phasing Up to New Possibilities program celebrates ten years

Phasing Up to New Possibilities, the foster care program developed at Johnson C. Smith University in 2009, is celebrating 10 years of changing lives. To mark the momentous occasion, the program brought back a dozen alumni September 20, 2019, to speak on a panel about their experiences in the program.

Program director Pat Newell is excited about reaching this milestone.

“This program provided some kids who never would have had it, an opportunity to become an adult in an environment that was safe and structured,” she said.

Initially the program, which launched under the administration of former JCSU president Ronald L. Carter, was designed to assist aged-out foster students during their time on campus. Today, the program also assists students who are homeless or facing homelessness. 

Newell, who has been managing the program for eight consecutive years, said the program has been able to sustain for a decade because of the environment JCSU provides students.

“As an HBCU, we have a rich tradition of staying connected.  Our Homecoming celebrations are well attended by our alumni and that also provides a reason for our former students to venture back onto the campus,” Newell explained. “Many colleges that claim to provide support services to aged-out foster youth are only around for two to three years, at best. We stay connected with our graduates so we can help them as they move into their careers.”

Dr. Melvin Herring, Master of Social Work (MSW) program director, also credits Newell with the program’s longevity.

“Mrs. Newell's efforts to refute negative stereotypes about these young people and to prove the larger society wrong by demonstrating that these young people are capable of more than what is generally expected of them has helped them succeed,” he said.

To stay connected with students, Phasing Up to New Possibilities collaborated with the School of Social Work. Each Phasing Up student is assigned an MSW student, who communicates weekly and assists as they adjust to the rigor of college.

When speaking of the School of Social Work, Dean Helen Caldwell said, “As the school promotes the academic areas, such as the BSW and MSW Programs, the Phasing Up non-academic program displays the work and value of social work as a discipline.”

As successful as the program is, with 14 graduates since 2011, Newell desires more growth.

“I would like to see a more formal role for our graduates to assist me with the recruitment of more scholars,” Newell emphasized.

Newell is as grateful for the program as the students are to have her. While she did not launch Phasing Up to New Possibilities, she has truly incorporated it into her life. Every summer she holds a barbecue for students at her home, mentors students and regularly communicates with alumni.

“The students have impacted my life in ways too numerous to express. I have grown in every area; however, I think I would have to credit my students for my spiritual growth most significantly,” Newell said.