Some people see the glass half empty, others see it half full. If the City of Reading is the metaphorical glass, emmae (pronounced m-a) sees it as overflowing. emmae reached out to share her story as a self-described “Reading native who left this town at 17 to go to college . . . since traveled the world . . . living in several other states, the Caribbean, Paris, London, NYC, and even a short spell in Ethiopia.” And then . . . emmae continued, “To me, Reading is comparable to those other large metropolises in terms of diversity, consciousness and the all-important convenient public transportation.” I had to hear more!
Turns out emmae had a long list: walkability, Schuylkill River, RSD and RACC, BCHC, Berks Jazz Fest, Reading Film Fest, Reading Royals, R-Phils, Reading Symphony Orchestra, Goggleworks, Alvernia College Towne, Penn Street Market . . . the people are polite, helpful and caring; lovely homes stretch the length and breadth of the city . . . proximity and access to ABE, NY, Philly, DC, Baltimore, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Poconos . . . Judy’s on Cherry, Pike Café, Peanut Bar, Decarlo’s Supermarket on Penn . . . We could fill the page, but better to learn more about emmae.
For 20+ years emmae and her husband lived in the Caribbean, adding 7 children to their lives along the way. Two returns to Reading during those decades were temporary, lasting no more than a year each time before they returned to the islands. And then . . . in the early 90s, emmae returned to Reading to stay, for a while, and help build. Over the next 8-10 years emmae worked in Domestic Violence Awareness/Education with women and youth (on staff at what is now Safe Berks) and with men (on staff at Berks Advocates Against Violence). While “the sisters” (Fred Stubbs, Becky Stubbs, Delia McClendon and emmae) were working to establish BAAV, emmae also worked as PAL Teen Center Director, and then . . . as PAL Unit Director for Olivet Boys’ and Girls’ Club, supporting the social-emotional-life-skills development of many local youth.
“So, to me, what I’m saying is, this is a great starting off point. And I know it’s small and of course, you know, leave and see the world, but it’s a great place to come back to too. With all your knowledge and your experience you come back here and you help build.”
Reflecting on her building time emmae remarks, “And so education has always been important. But what I found is that to me informal education is even more important . . . those skills that you learn in daily life carry with you. You can’t teach that to people in a classroom from a book . . . and allowing, to me, student voice is extremely, extremely important.” So important, it led her to co-author a textbook, “Participatory Pedagogy: Emerging Research and Opportunities,” with one of her daughters. “That was the result of those experiences, working with youth . . . what I learned from those 8-10 years is what is in that book, and one of the main things is student voice.”
As for her own children, emmae says that 3 of her daughters were afforded valuable educational experiences and opportunities (through RSD, RACC and PSU Berks) that helped springboard their successful careers. And, emmae adds, “The diversity of Reading prepared our kidz for the diversity of the wider world.”
In the early 2000s emmae went on to live in Atlanta, Paris, London and Ethiopia for periods of time. And then . . . she came back to help build some more. I’ve been back three years now. And it’s really been working. I’m happy to be here and I talk to everyone I know . . . especially those across the river, about how successful Reading is at maintaining a diverse culture and remembering its roots.”
About our logo: designed by José Joel Delgado-Rivera, Public Relations and Marketing Consultant.
This project is funded by a FARO grant provided by a partnership between the Wyomissing Foundation and Barrio Alegría. Produced in conjunction with BCTV.
If you have a story to share, contact: [email protected] or 484-333-4015