When Ken Apana-Korley first learned about the Silas Craft Collegians Program while browsing the Howard Community College website, he was most struck by the photos. “You know when you look at pictures and see a person’s face and they’re smiling, you can tell if they’re genuinely happy,” Apana-Korley says. “I could see that the students were genuinely happy being in the program, and thought if they could do it, then maybe I could, too.”
Now in his final semester at HCC, the program that made an initial impression has turned into an integral part of Apana-Korley’s college experience. From the mentorship and financial scholarships to the friendships with peers and leadership opportunities, he has found a sense of community while also successfully making progress on his academic goals.
“I don’t think I ever would’ve done half the things I’ve done at HCC if I wasn’t in the Silas Craft Collegians Program,” Apana-Korley says. “Because of HCC and my experience in the program, I started taking American Sign Language. It’s one of my favorite classes. I’m pushing myself, and I have people encouraging me to do that. I’m learning study skills and things I didn’t know before. And I have a 20-person friend group where I can call anyone and just talk to them.”
The people are the most valuable part of the program, Apana-Korley says. “Everyone’s a support system. I appreciate the fact that I can get help without anyone judging me or being condescending. People want you to be you, and they want you to succeed. Similarly, I want everyone in my cohort to succeed.”
Biweekly mentor meetings are especially meaningful in providing encouragement and advice. “It’s really helpful to have someone who’s willing to sit down and talk to you, keep you accountable, give you advice, and tell you, ‘I’ve been through those experiences before, and this is what we can do to help you,’” Apana-Korley says. “Everyone always has a focus to push you toward your educational goals.”
While in high school, Apana-Korley says he took a somewhat relaxed approach to academics. But at HCC he has learned the value of getting more involved and stepping into leadership roles.
“I never thought of myself as a natural leader,” he says. “But I realized from my experiences with Silas Craft Collegians that I’m not the type of person that wants to stand on the sidelines. I want to be there for people and make sure things are moving smoothly and help them out, so everyone is on the front lines getting things done in the best way possible.”
Following his expected graduation in spring 2021 with a major in general studies, Apana-Korley plans to transition to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree and eventually earn a master’s degree as well.
“I want to teach English, political science, and theater,” he says. “Those are three things I’m very passionate about. I know I can do it—and this is why I know I can do it—because Ms. Phillips [who serves as Silas Craft Collegians Program Coordinator] said I could do it.”Apana-Korley’s ultimate vision is to follow the model of the professors and staff who have inspired him at HCC. “I want to help people and give people the opportunity to have teachers like those leading Silas Craft Collegians and those who helped me.”