“I was raised as a product of the village mentality,” Representative JORDAN HARRIS says with pride.
“I had a lot of people who were not necessarily blood related who became my family. They nurtured and assisted me in my childhood, and when I came to Millersville University (MU), I had many people, like Dr. Richard Glenn, Dr. Rita Smith Wade-El and others, who were like extended members of my village,” he continues. “And sometimes that extension became financial.”
Harris graduated from MU in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in government and political affairs. Today, he sits on the University’s Council of Trustees. He remains an active presence on campus and works to be a fierce advocate for public education through his representation of the 186th Legislative District in Philadelphia.
With the creation of a new endowment at the Millersville University Foundation for students studying government, Harris hopes to extend that same kind of financial support he received as a student, and help the next generation of students find success at MU.
“I believe it’s imperative that those who are doing well in life don’t forget about those who are coming behind us,” he says. “It is not just a good thing to do, it’s a responsibility for us to give back.”
Harris recalls the various scholarships he received as a student that helped him make ends meet, but he is quick to add that it’s not just large sums of money that make the difference.
“My grandmother, who was a retired schoolteacher, would take $100 out of her retirement account every two weeks, and give it to me so I could live on it,” he says with fondness.
In creating this endowment, Harris chose to focus on students pursuing governmental studies, not only because it is what he studied at MU, but also because he feels it’s important students understand the governmental systems around them.
“The sad thing is that those who don’t know about the government are usually the victims of it,” he says. “It is extremely important that that young people understand the government around them and how it affects their lives. Millersville is a state school. There is a direct correlation between the school and the government.”
“As someone from a marginalized community, I feel that it’s important to help other students from marginalized communities across our commonwealth,” he continues in explanation.
Harris plans to pull together his network of supporters and friends who also believe in the importance of higher education to see the endowment through. His goal is to begin awarding scholarships on the endowment next year.
“I think it’s important that as younger people—recent graduates in the last 10 to 20 years—we need to understand what giving really is. You may look at your paycheck and think you don’t have anything to give, but you have a life insurance policy. You can bequeath resources to a university or an institution you really care about when you pass on,” he encourages.
It is not just financial support that can make a difference to a young student’s life. He emphasizes the importance of networks, mentorship and job opportunities as resources young alums can provide.
“Every summer I have people reach out to me for internships. That may not be financial resources, but it is an important resource,” he says. “You can help a young person move forward. It’s not just a nice thing to do, it’s necessary.”