Nicola Shirley '06

- Student; On Campus

Nicola Shirley
I needed to develop a whole new skill set . . .

Philadelphia restaurant owner Nicola Shirley has been helping revitalize communities for years, but wanted to have more than personal experience to rely on when offering ideas and making decisions. Though her community activities in Philly and in her home country of Jamaica, Nicola often worked with area professors and others whom she felt had more knowledge and experience.

She enrolled in Southern New Hampshire University’s School of CED after learning about it through a friend (a School of CED graduate). The master’s program in community economic development turned out to be exactly what she needed, providing her with the structure and technical knowledge she felt she lacked.

 “Figuring out how to get grants, write proposals; I needed to develop a whole new skill set for that,” she says. “The schedule is great, because I’m able to come up once a month ... be with others, have those discussions and get the work done. I feel comfortable now.”

Nicola is vice chair of Edu-tourism, a service learning organization that brings students from Philadelphia-area colleges to Jamaica to help with sanitation, construction, trail cleanup, computerization and other projects. "It’s always life-affirming and life-changing,” she says.

An ongoing project is the Women’s Center of Jamaica Foundation, an outreach center that provides medical care as well as parenting and job skills training for pregnant teens and teen mothers in St. Thomas. The group is working on a sewing cooperative to generate revenue and opportunities. Through the project, Nicola is putting to work what she’s learning in class.

“The way the course work is set up, it’s taking you through all these steps ... taking you through the whole process of implementing the work,” she says.

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