Cristian Hinkley, a junior studying social work at Temple’s College of Public Health, had been working 40- to 50-hour weeks to put himself through community college in Texas when he decided he wanted to do something more “substantial.” He spent several years working across the country with the service organization AmeriCorps NCCC, eventually landing in Philadelphia. Now, with support from Temple’s Opportunity Scholarship Fund, established in 2005 though the generosity of Barbara B. Ernico, SSW '71 and Jeffrey A. Ernico, LAW ’70, Hinkley is putting his experience to work as a future policymaker.
“I would not be a student right now if I didn’t get the scholarship,” Hinkley says .”It just wouldn't be possible. I don't have familial support like a lot of students. It’s just me.”
Texas native Hinkley joined AmeriCorps NCCC in 2017 and hit the road, heading first to Sacramento, Calif., then to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. He served at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, at Habitat for Humanity sites in San Diego and Menifee, Calif., and in the Parks and Open Space Division in Eugene, Ore.
“I got to do a lot of direct service,” he says. “At the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, that's when I started to learn about the world of social work. I think it’s when the seed was planted in me that, ‘hey, this is something that maybe I could do as a career.’”
Hinkley rejoined AmeriCorps for another tour of duty that brought him to an elementary school in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, and he applied to Temple. Now in a bachelor’s degree program with plans to earn his master of social work degree at Temple, he has been adding to his hands-on experience in community service with studies of social work policy and systems.
“I've been discovering that the root cause of a lot of social ills is misinformed policy and unsuccessful policies,” Hinkley says. “Since I've been at Temple, my focus has shifted toward: how can I attack these problems at their roots? I'm exploring different ways that I can get into a position where I can influence policy, be that a lobbyist, or an elected official, or something else. I think the more people that you have in there who have proximity to the issues, the more successful policy will be.”