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Why RACC Will Miss a Paperclip

by Tara Litwin

Stephanie Ernst from the Financial Aid Department is set to retire.

Throughout a thirty-eight year career at RACC, Stephanie Ernst has taken on a handful of jobs — beginning with a position as secretary in the Humanities Division and ending as a Financial Aid Assistant in the Records Department at Berks Hall. She has also worked at RACC as the secretary for the Director of the Library as well as the secretary for a televised live-chat that helped students in the GED and ABE (Adult Basic Education) program.

Commitment and dedication are appropriate words to associate with Ernst, and her career longevity proves it. Ernst has been employed at Reading Area Community College since November of 1977 and is set to retire at the end of this December. Like a true community hero, she jumped at the chance to fill voids around campus where her expertise and talents were needed most. Ernst was more than just a secretary; she was a counselor to students and served as a source of support and guidance.

Ernst says that her favorite part about her job in the financial aid department is “meeting with students and being some sort of help [in answering] their questions.” Disappointing students is her least favorite part of her job.

Ernst named two favorite work-related memories. The first was when a distraught, tearful student phoned Ernst at records because the student did not know how she was going to pay for the upcoming semester. Ernst offered wise advice: she suggested the student apply for Foundation Scholarships. Ernst recounted the student later calling back, again crying. But the second tear shower was of joy, as the student had received one of the scholarships that she applied for. Needless to say, she felt gratitude towards Ernst and owed her many thanks.

Ernst’s second favorite memory connects to graduation. She says that as much as she dislikes the detailed planning for graduation, the ceremony marks her favorite time of the academic year. Once the hustle-and-bustle of organizing the ceremony is finished, she glows with pride over the graduates’ accomplishments. She says seeing the students walk across the stage makes all her struggles worth it, and she cherishes the moments when she meets graduates’ families.

Her inspiration at RACC is Dr. David Lawrence, who convinced her to take a College Level Examination (CLEP) while he served as her supervisor. Ernst bravely took on the role of student as she enrolled in the appropriate classes and successfully earned twenty-four credits after completing the exam. She reminisced how that was the first time in her life that she felt she could accomplish anything, and it boosted her self-esteem immensely.

Ernst grew up in Temple and is now living in Adamstown. She is married with a son and daughter, and has two grandsons. When not at RACC, Ernst enjoys helping out at her church, Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, and says she enjoys sending out cards with confetti inside.

Out of all her years at RACC, Ernst believes that she was the biggest help to the Financial Aid Department. When asked what advice she would give to her successor, Ernst playfully recommends to “watch out for paper clips,” because her coworker Michell Good likes to put them on her clothes and throw them at her.

Ernst will be missed by students and faculty, and we thank her for her time spent working at RACC. In her own way, Ernst was a paperclip that held much of RACC together.

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