By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
WILLINGBORO – As the Rowan College at Burlington County education program coordinator and a local minister with her husband, Corvena Francis-Denton has dedicated her life inside and outside the classroom to the people who will help teach the next generation.
A native of Jamaica with an interest in special education, Francis-Denton fell in love with teaching while working in Kingston, but quickly learned she may have to leave the island nation if she wanted to learn more about her craft and advance her career.
At RCBC, Francis-Denton oversees A.S. program in education and the B.A. program in inclusive education.
Helping Students Succeed
“I have had the privilege of working with the diverse team that designed the first 3+1 program of its kind in the [United States],” Francis-Denton said of the unique program that allows students to do three of the four years need for a bachelor’s degree at RCBC. “It is even more exhilarating to not just create a program but be instrumental in the pedagogical component.
“This 3+1 program not only provides access but, students have the opportunity to obtain a four-year credentialing degree that is affordable. It is important to be directly involved in developing educators who understand exceptionalities among students before entering the classroom,” she added.
Francis-Denton was attending school and working in New York she learned about the open position at RCBC.
“I was working as the director of the academic program, community education and training at another institution when my mentor brought my attention to an open position in my field at RCBC,” Francis-Denton said. “It is so important to have a mentor who understands where you want to go and is not afraid to push you into the unknown.
“My previous position allowed me to create well needed curricula but took me out of the classroom where direct instruction was given. As a faculty at RCBC, I enjoy the opportunity to design and implement curriculum. I appreciate human interaction. I enjoy seeing effective pedagogy at work however, my proudest moment happens when scholars are able to replicate instructional strategies in practice settings,” Francis-Denton continued.
Beyond the 4 Walls
Francis-Denton is partners with her husband Rev. Ritz Denton at Beyond The 4 Walls The Prayer House Ministries and the nonprofit Promise and Possibilities Foundation. The nonprofit was created to meet the financial needs of scholars as they embark on higher education. Francis-Denson serves as president and Ritz Denton is the chief executive officer.
“Over the years our mandates have evolved,” Francis-Denton said. “Through the organization we are able to provide need-based scholarships to students locally and internationally. Last year we were able to provide 13 scholarships and awards to students in St. Vincent, Trinidad, Jamaica, and the USA. We also provide book and reading material to low in communities, clothing, food barrels and medical supplies.
“So far, these care packages have been shipped to Africa, the Caribbean or local domestic violence and women shelters. In March of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak we formalized and established the Promise and Possibilities Food Bank in Jamaica providing monthly distribution to families in need. We also execute workshops and training in basic Computer Skills, Family Life and Parenting and Effective Inclusive Education Strategies to teachers.
Francis-Denton said she and her husband serve as ministers in Beyond The 4 Walls and the Internet allows them to reach audiences globally.
“Four years ago we stated Beyond the 4 Walls teaching, preaching and praying for individuals around the world,” she said. “This platform allows us to reach the people where they are, thus breaking down boundaries and barriers.”
Mentoring Next Generation
Francis-Denton said her dedication on education and youth is attributed to the importance she feels in mentoring the next generation.
“I can attribute much of my success to effective mentoring by the people God placed in my life,” Francis-Denton said. “We were created to leave footprints in the sands of time. The roads we walk will ultimately create a path for those who come after us. It is imperative that we create productive pathways.
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“I understand that it is my duty to be a guide, keep doors open and pull others through. I realized another person’s success does not detract from what God has for me thus, helping others actualize their dreams is my purpose. I openly share my journey. I talk about my struggles and the roadblocks I have faced. If we openly discuss challenges, the idea is we save others from making our mistake,” she said.
Francis-Denton said she also feels passionately about empowering women primarily those who have been broken, abused or marginalized in hopes to give them a new path through education, training “or just simply speaking up.”
“I serve on various boards and committees in Willingboro that provides the opportunity for strategic planning and development in these areas,” Francis-Denton said. “Mentoring requires active engagement. It requires you to become vulnerable and let others into your circle of influence. It requires boldness.”
‘Tower of Strength’
Francis-Denton called her family a “tower of strength” and provides constant inspiration.
“As a first-generation college graduate; my success was their success and my failure was their failure,” Francis-Denton said. “My mother has been my most constant inspiration and motivation. She raised my sister and I as a single parent and would always tell us we would never be like her but, we must become greater.
“She has been relentless through every success and failure. She supports me even on endeavors where she doesn’t understand where it will go. She has always spoken positive affirmations over my life. My husband creates the environment for us to thrive and succeed. He embodies a growth mindset understanding we were created with and for a purpose. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by strong women in leadership.
“My high school and college educators were mainly female. My STC college principal was a fierce, dynamic leader who valued the growth of distinguished educators. My church mother taught me never to take a no as the final answer from the person at the front desk but rather ask for the supervisor. My ‘Sister’s Circle’ includes vitreous women who hold you accountable, push me out of my comfort zone and support me when I stumble. I was raised on an island where women excelled to any position. I have seen a female Prime Minister, Senior Superintendent of Police, Education Officer, CEOs and CFOs just to name a few. Representation has played a major role in my inspiration but in all this, I am kept grounded by my faith and the Word,” Francis-Denton continued.
There were a few other subjects Francis-Denton touched on in her interview.
FRNJ: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Corvena Francis-Denton: That’s a good one. In the next 5-10 years it is my dream to have completed construction on the first Promise and Possibilities Orphanage and Training Center. I hope to expand our scholarship distribution to 50 awards each year and open a Beyond the 4 Walls Studio for our weekly broadcast. My ultimate dream is to partner with the Jamaican Government to design an Inclusive Education program that will become a permanent part of every preservice teacher training curriculum.
FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?
Corvena Francis-Denton: Scholarship and awards are important to me because they provide access and equity to education. I believe education that makes you employable is one step toward elevating not just a scholar but their entire family. Therefore, designing programs that will allow students to become credential educators/employable without the insurmountable student loans debts will continue to be a major part of my Portfolio. RCBC has given me that platform to develop and implement such a program that will ultimately be the model for other programs around the country. This in itself is a dream come true.
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