"When you are immersed in Adelphi’s environment of resources, passion, knowledge, diversity…your back starts to stand a little straighter, your chin rises higher, you dream a lot bigger."
Founder and president of Sharif Health Research and Consulting, LLC.“When you come from this sort of experience, and are taken out of that and immersed in Adelphi’s environment of resources, passion, knowledge, diversity…your back starts to stand a little straighter, your chin rises higher, you dream a lot bigger.” —Hamidah Sharif-Harris ’98
One of six children, Hamidah Sharif-Harris ’98 was raised by her mother, a single parent, in Harlem. While she and her siblings didn’t have luxuries growing up, they had their mother’s confidence. From a young age, Ms. Sharif-Harris recalls her mother ingraining in her children the importance of education and going away to a university.
Ms. Sharif-Harris remembers filling out the financial aid form for Adelphi, which asked her to provide her family’s income. “I think it was $6,660 a year. And that was completely from welfare,” she said. “I was eligible for every type of aid, but I still had some loans.”
To make those payments, she worked approximately 40 hours a week; on campus through work study and at the local grocery store. As a result, her grades suffered. Her GPA dropped so low that she was informed she was going to be dismissed from Adelphi. “I couldn’t go home and tell my mother, who sacrificed everything to make sure I had opportunities she wasn’t able to have, that I was being kicked out of school.”
She made an appeal and sat down with then General Studies dean, David Newton, who asked if she felt she would be able to focus more on her studies if she did not have the pressure of working so many hours. “I told him yes, absolutely. I didn’t have a family who was able to provide me with a stipend or an allowance so that I could take care of myself,” she said.
Ms. Sharif-Harris can still recall receiving a letter from Adelphi informing her that the University would provide her with another year of academic support; a financial package that would cover her room and board and tuition; and a scholarship to buy books.
“When I got news that Adelphi was going to make it possible…to invest that much into me so I could fulfill some potential in my life…there are no words. It was life-changing.”
She was able to focus on her classes, her grades went up, and without the burden of worrying about how she would pay her loans and spending all her free time working, was able to get involved in campus life. Throughout her years at Adelphi, Ms. Sharif-Harris participated in the community service organization Cause to Achieve Leadership, Intelligence, Brotherhood, Excellence and Respect (CALIBER), Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Resident Student Association.
“Adelphi is where I learned all the basics of leadership. I took those experiences and leadership skills with me,” said Ms. Sharif-Harris. She is also grateful to the faculty members who “embraced” her, in particular Della Hudson, Associate Dean of Student Affairs. “My mother got me to Adelphi,” she said. “Once I was at the University, Della took over. There are not enough words to describe the impact she has had on my life.”
After graduating from the University, she went on to earn two master’s degrees in health education from Columbia University, while simultaneously working for a nonprofit organization in Harlem as a community health educator. “My focus has always been around reducing disparities in health, particularly with regard to race and gender,” said Ms. Sharif-Harris, who enrolled in Columbia’s doctoral program in health education.
While working on her dissertation, she relocated to Leesburg, Virginia to work for CIGNA Healthcare. There she developed and implemented the now highly acclaimed Loudoun County Government and Loudoun County Public Schools Employee Wellness Programs, using her community health background and strong academic training to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of Loudoun County employees.
By the time she earned her doctorate in 2007, she had established Sharif Health Research and Consulting, LLC., whose mission is to assist employers with planning programs that are targeted to their employee needs, concerns, and wellness goals. Sharif HR Consulting provides expert advice to HMOs, county governments, school districts, and non-profit employers on best practices in planning and marketing wellness programs across the United States.
“Essentially we come in, assess the needs of the population we’re working with, and provide a health disparity reduction program,” she said. “It’s rewarding to be able to really engage with people at a level they are comfortable with, and to see that engagement impact their lives.”
Reflecting back on her teenage years, the woman who is now the president of her own company realizes her life could have gone down a very different path. She credits the transformational experience she had at Adelphi with shaping her into the person she is today.
“When you come from an environment where a lot of what you see is the hard road life…generational poverty…everybody just trying to get by from one day to the next…you begin to have self-doubt. You start to think, ‘well sure my mom says I’m great, but I’m from this…maybe I should be what everyone else around me is,’” she said.
“When you come from this sort of experience, and are taken out of that and immersed in Adelphi’s environment of resources, passion, knowledge, diversity…your back starts to stand a little straighter, your chin rises higher, you dream a lot bigger,” she said. “When I was a student at Adelphi my mother would remind me: these experiences that you’re blessed with you need to take them and run. And that’s what I did.”
Published March 2013
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