Harris ’21 Recognized for Dedication to Early Childhood Education During Gov. Wolf’s Innovative Apprenticeships Announcement

By Caitlin Burns | December 18, 2019

Gov. Tom Wolf speaking with Harris at a table with children.

Emmanuel Harris ’21, a student in the School of Education’s PreK-4 Program for Working Professionals, is more concerned about his preschool students being kind to each other than he is about recognition for the work he does as an educator at the Parent Infant Center.

However, his classroom was selected by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf as the location  to celebrate the launch of the Innovative Apprenticeship Project, which will fund five apprenticeship programs through the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund to help build careers in early childhood development and addiction counseling, and as advanced medical assistants. 

The apprenticeship program creates a first-of-its-kind training approach in the Philadelphia area to provide a pathway for workers to get their first technical credential up to a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification.

“One of the best moments of the day was when one of my students saw that all the men in the room were wearing suits and ties, but I was in my regular clothes,” said Harris. “So, he went over to the play area, found a tie, and brought it over to me. It was beautiful because he’s learning. It was wonderful that he was cognizant of something like that.”

Prior to making the announcement, Gov. Wolf participated in hands-on learning activities with students in Harris’ classroom, including making Playdough. While the student who brought Harris a tie from the dress-up area seemed to sense the importance of the classroom visit, it was a question from another preschooler that caught the governor’s attention, “Does the [governor] want to put their hands in the playdough?” 

“I appreciate that he sees the importance of early childhood education in the state,” said Harris, noting that it’s the foundation of education. “There aren’t many black males in my profession, so to be recognized for my work and have the governor come in was a big deal.”

Harris has come a long way from the odds-and-ends jobs he was working in Washington, D.C. nearly five years ago when he felt he wasn’t “fulfilling his purpose.” After moving in with his cousin in February 2015, he found his way to R.W. Brown Community Center as a camp counselor in 2016. Realizing that he loved working with children set him on a path to receive his associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the Community College of Philadelphia and enroll at Arcadia.

Gov. Wolf noted in his comments that Harris was an excellent example of the value of the apprentice program brings to the state: That by making a college degree attainable for individuals who simultaneously work in the field, they improve the quality of early childhood education students receive as a foundation for the rest of their academic careers. 

Arcadia’s undergraduate PreK-4 Program for Early Childhood Education Working Professionals is an online program that is designed to support students who are working full-time in early childhood centers. The first program cohort of eight students began in the Spring 2019 semester. Students take course work throughout the year, including summer semesters, to complete the program in 2.5 years. The program prepares students to work with young and elementary-aged children. In addition to coursework, students complete their fieldwork in kindergarten to fourth grade settings, as well as at their place of employment working with children from birth to 5 years.