For Immediate Release
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Allentown women weathered challenges to graduate from social work program

ALLENTOWN, PA (May 18, 2009)--Llolanda Hanville and Yoly Santana took every class together since they enrolled in the Social Work program at Cedar Crest College three years ago.

They studied together frequently. They motivated one another. They supported each other-like when Hanville met with Social Sciences Chair Maynard Cressman to discuss switching her major from nursing and invited equally ambivalent psychology student Santana to join her, or when Hanville's physical ailments-including a bout of appendicitis-landed her in the hospital late last year, and Santana brought her notes to the hospital so the pair could study.

At commencement over the weekend, the pair graduated with bachelors' degrees in social work, the unusual mother and daughter who know precisely the hard work and dedication that it took to earn that degree. They couldn't be more proud of each other.

 hanville santana

"I am very proud of mom. She keeps me on track. She motivates me, and if she doesn't understand something, I can help her. She's like my best friend," said Santana before commencement.

"I am very proud. Being in the classroom with her and sharing this moment with her-I never imagined we'd be graduating from the same school, let alone at the same time," said Hanville. "I never thought I'd get to the end of this thing but here it is."

The mom and daughter got their start at Cedar Crest back in 2003. Santana had just graduated from Louis E. Dieruff High School-the school from which her mother also graduated-and Hanville was a student at Lehigh Carbon Community College looking to continue her education at a four-year college. The pair visited Cedar Crest and decided that it was the right choice for both of them.

Hanville and Santana, both of Allentown, were well on their way to earning degrees in nursing and psychology, respectively, when in 2006, Hanville decided that nursing wasn't the right career for her. The timing was unusual, to say the least.

"I was just two courses short of graduating with a degree in nursing, but I just wasn't feeling it. In my gut, I felt that it just wasn't working for me," said Hanville. "In talking with my advisor at the time, she said that I'm very good at helping people, and suggested I consider switching to social work. I talked to my daughter and she said, ‘sounds good.' We both joined the social work program."

And so Hanville and Santana worked together toward their social work degrees, both facing their share of challenges along the way. Hanville took courses on a part-time basis while working fulltime and caring for her family. Santana had a daughter in 2006, and juggled raising a child with school and work.

The biggest challenge, however, came last fall when Hanville was hospitalized. Sidelined for about a month, Hanville said she was able to get through the semester and earn her credits thanks to the support of her daughter, fiancé Allen Hahn, and the faculty at Cedar Crest.

"At one point I wasn't sure I was going to finish. I was given the option to take the semester off for medical reasons and start new this semester, but my daughter and fiancée told me, ‘we'll help you get through this,'" said Hanville, who also found out recently that she has uterine cancer. "My daughter would bring me the notes from class and study with me at the hospital, and I would dictate to my fiancée and he would type for me on his laptop so I could complete class work. I had an oral presentation due and I was able to do it over the phone with the instructor. I never expected the instructors to be so accommodating, but they were great. They are very concerned about their students."

Both Hanville and Santana recently lost their jobs; Hanville had been working with elderly mentally disabled people at a nursing home before her illness forced her to leave, while Santana was left jobless earlier this year when the children's dress-up party company she worked for decided to close shop. Both recently wrapped up internships through the social work program at Cedar Crest and are trying to get jobs in their field of study.

"I do like to help people-not just the individuals who need the help, but their families, as well," said Hanville, who may opt to also complete her nursing degree one day. "I want to work with the elderly."

While it may seem the two are destined to go their separate ways at this point, Hanville and Santana are seriously considering attending graduate school together. Hanville has already been accepted to attend Marywood School of Social Work in Scranton, and Santana has applied.

"It's exciting. We're going to be in the same classes again-I know we are," said Santana.

Cedar Crest College's 139th Commencement Ceremony was held on Saturday, May 16. Marjorie O. Rendell, a judge of the United States Court of Appeals and Pennsylvania's First Lady, and Dr. Robi Ludwig, renowned psychotherapist and television host, and an alumna of Cedar Crest Class of 1987, received honorary degrees. The ceremony also featured an address to graduates from Dr. Blenda J. Wilson, Cedar Crest Class of 1962, who served as Cedar Crest College's Acting President from November 2007 to May 2008.


Last Updated: 5/18/09