Frank Hawkins '16
Bachelor of Science, Human Services, Spring 2016, Summa Cum Laude
Master of Science, Human Services, Mental Health Counseling, Expected Graduation Spring 2018
Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement
Frank Hawkins ’16 made the most of having parents who insisted their children learn how to present their ideas. He was required to put together presentations at home, and was graded on them.
Today, Hawkins falls back on those early experiences, but with a sense of humility. As the director of advocacy and community engagement for AIDS Delaware, he is the public voice for a crucial non-profit working to prevent the spread of HIV. “I’m not the greatest speaker,” says the man who regularly addresses large audiences and small classrooms, advocating in public meetings, and appearing on radio and television. “I’m comfortable, though, as long as I know what I’m talking about.”
After 18 years with AIDS Delaware, he knows what he’s talking about. At first, Hawkins volunteered, learning about HIV prevention and going to rehab centers and homeless shelters to explain the programs.
“Because I could speak well enough,” Hawkins said, “I thought I was a good writer too.” In his office nobody critiqued his writing or showed him how it could be better. As soon as he entered Springfield College Wilmington, he realized how little he knew about writing. “I learned things I’d never had a clue about. How to start sentences, choose the best words, how to write a letter or a good academic paper. Becoming a better writer was one of the greatest things I learned. I appreciate it every day.”
Why would a community leader who has made a difference in the lives and health of so many decide to get a bachelor’s degree at 51 years old? “Writing was just the beginning,” Hawkins said. “I wanted to learn more about the full range of issues in human services.”
Hawkins’ three daughters, all in their twenties, showed little surprise at their father’s enrollment in college, but they showed plenty of excitement for him. They teased that he would have to wake up early, that they would call him to be sure he got on the bus. “They knew I was a little bit nervous. But we’re the kind of family that offers a lot of encouragement, and they were ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you go Dad!’”
The location of Springfield’s Wilmington campus made it easier for Hawkins. He lives within walking distance, and the school is across the street from his office. His newly minted Bachelor’s in Human Services will give him greater flexibility and more opportunities, but he contends that, most importantly, his education will make him better at the job he loves.
“A lot of folks I work with had gone to Springfield. I was attracted to the weekend program,” Hawkins said. “The combination of the schedule, the academics, and their focus on my field made it a perfect match.”
Hawkins believes the best way to prevent HIV is to educate children as early as possible. That means talking openly about sex. And with three daughters, his methods were put to the test and he faced the difficulties. He says research shows children need to be able to talk about their body parts as early as two or three years old. “So it doesn’t become shocking and taboo when teenagers hear the words penis, vagina, breast. Children have to be able to express themselves about what they see and feel, and parents have to talk about it.” He says his coursework at Springfield helped him communicate that important point to parents.
Powerful advocates like Hawkins make a difference every day. And raising a loving family is a real accomplishment. And yet, he says, “Going to Springfield and studying the broader field of human services is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”