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Many Threads, One Fabric: Vol. 11 – Alan Tyson

Many Threads, One Fabric: Vol. 11 – Alan Tyson

Alan Tyson earned a football scholarship to the University Of New Haven (UNH), despite the fact that he never started a full season when playing for RHS. He says that scholarship was a combination of a lot of hard work, time and location. The hard work happened over time. The location was a football camp at Villanova, where a head coach from UNH saw him, and later offered the scholarship. While the school wasn’t his top choice, playing football at the college level was a dream come true.

And then . . .  at age 20, like so many generations of his family, Alan chose to join the military. Over the course of 19 years, the Army life took him on two tours of Iraq, followed by time at Fort Campbell Kentucky, Peterson’s Air Force Base in Colorado, a year in Honduras, and another stint in the states. Regarding his military experience, Alan says, “War’s horrible.” “But,” he continues, “talking to the people, learnin’ their culture, understanding their culture . . . . they’re very similar to us, you know . . . It was cool to learn about cultures in places I would never have been unless I was in the military.”

Alan’s interest in learning about different cultures and his care for people, his commitment to “love them as they are,” goes back to his earliest days. Alan’s grandparents migrated to Reading from the south – North Carolina, Alabama and Reamstown PA – when industry was strong and opportunity plentiful in the mid-20th Century. Growing up at 3rd & Spruce Rec and Reading Iron Playground, Alan was part of the closely knit Black community that formed through the bonds of faith that brought them here. And, he was connected to PA Dutch/German culture through his maternal grandmother, Nancy Keith Scott.

Reflecting on his early years, Alan says: “A lot of people were 2nd or 3rd generation Americans. In their houses they were speaking Slovakian languages, Italian, eating those meals, and they had stories of what they lived through in WWII. . . I went to St. Mary’s Catholic School and got a different experience there with the Polish community. . . We did catering with my grandma. That’s where I learned how to cook, PA Dutch meals – stuffing pig’s stomach and everything. . . And my grandma taught Head Start. I loved to watch her work with a classroom of kids across the spectrum. Special needs, didn’t know English, and these kids went on a 1st grade reading level. It was beautiful.”

And then . . . there was playing football for Rising Sun and being on the trash truck with his uncles (Mike, Billy and Cheesy). So when he decided to take a break from the military in 2019 because, “I really wanted to come back home for my grandmother and give back to how much people helped me, you know?”, Alan got involved with coaching youth football and picked up work on the trash truck again.

He made the most of the time he had with his grandmother, until her death in December 2020. And for now, Alan is still living and giving in Reading. Even after rejoining the Army National Guard in 2022, and even though his daughters live 1600 miles away in Colorado. Thankful for the technology that makes video calls possible, he calls them before school every day. “It just changes everything. It’s like I’m sitting in a living room with them. . And we just clown each other, talk. I don’t get the touch, the hugs, but I’m not missing a beat. I know what’s going on. . . You know, it’s not just a phone call.”

“My purpose is this, I feel: to help. Honestly. And . . . I like helping the youth. I love working with young individuals. . . Because people didn’t, they didn’t give up on me . . . they always helped me out and made sure I was right. And that’s what kids need. . . And because you learn so much.”


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This project is funded by a FARO grant provided by a partnership between the Wyomissing Foundation and Barrio Alegría. Produced in conjunction with BCTV.

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