Alicia Kline sees people like herself every day as she works at the Berks Counseling Center. As the coordinator for the Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program and a facilitator for the Nurturing Parenting classes, she sees many teenagers and young women who are pregnant and need support.
Eighteen years ago, Alicia was just like those young pregnant women, but she was able to turn the corner and provide a stable future for her daughter thanks to RACC.
Alicia enrolled at RACC seven years after graduating from what was formerly Holy Name High School (now Berks Catholic). Born and raised in the Northwest section of Reading, she found herself pregnant, unmarried and working as a bartender, knowing it would not be enough to support her child.
"Realizing that changes needed to occur, I decided to return to college in order to provide a future my daughter," said Alicia, who now has two children. "The thought of returning to school terrified me as high school was often unbearable. While academically my grades were average, socially I was often bullied because of my economic background and my physical appearance."
"RACC seemed like the most logical choice. I knew that many adults attended RACC and I thought I could blend in. I never imagined the positive effect RACC would eventually have on me and how that journey changed my life forever," she added.
As an unemployed single mother, Alicia qualified for the ACT 101 program which focuses on helping academically and financially disadvantaged students to complete college. In addition to financial aid, Alicia utilized one-on-one mentoring as part of ACT 101. She credits the counseling and support she received from the staff with helping her to discover her true self.
"I never imagined that academically, I could achieve greatness," she said. "I never imagined that I could sit in a classroom and not worry about people laughing at my weight. RACC instilled in me the value of an education and gave me the greatest gift - pride. I will always be grateful to my instructors at RACC. They truly challenged me to excel and I never forgot many of the lessons they taught me."
Alicia, who graduated from RACC with a degree in criminal justice, continued on earning a bachelor's degree, also in criminal justice, from Alvernia University.
From there, Alicia entered the workforce, starting briefly at Lebanon County Children and Youth Services before moving to Berks County Children and Youth where she spent almost 10 years. Alicia's responsibilities included in-home evaluations working with parents to develop an ongoing family services plan, assessing risk to children in the home and investigating allegations of child abuse.
"I think I always knew I wanted to help others and I learned that I am good at it and I love it," she said. "I want to continue to work with the community, but I never feel like I am doing enough. I want to become an even stronger presence here in Reading."
In 2010, with her growing confidence and career background, Alicia returned to school at St. Joseph's University earning her master’s degree in criminal justice in August.
"Attending RACC provided me with a solid foundation for my future educational needs," Alicia said. "The instructors at RACC taught me to think critically, write on a college level, and that the motivation to succeed goes a very long way. Most importantly, RACC helped me to see there was so much more to me than what was on the outside and gave me the courage to further my education."