By Jesse Steele
Gordon College News Service
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
WENHAM – Growing up in Yonkers New York, Paulea Mooney-McCoy was surrounded by art. Her father owned a silk screening business while her brother pursued art at Boston University. Mooney-McCoy chose performance over visual arts and immersed herself in music and dance, but that love for creating would eventually become a love of supporting others.
“I don’t know when that really started for me,” she said, “but eventually it evolved.”
And on January 6, 2014, Mooney-McCoy, who wouldn’t comment on her age, stepped foot on Gordon College’s campus for her first day of work as the new Director of the Clarendon Scholars Program, bringing her creative eye to the established program.
The Clarendon Program, which is going on its tenth year, provides incoming Gordon students from urban areas with scholarships to supplement the cost of tuition. It also programs support, training in leadership and the chance for students to be mentored by faculty, such as Mooney-McCoy.
Growing up she experienced first hand how helpful the support of another person could be by helping others discover their passions. Eventually her curiosity in the lives of people turned into a vision of social justice issues.
“I’ve had a real interest in how cultures heal from trauma,” Mooney-McCoy said. “So I began learning about the oppression of people groups, such as the journey of African Americans, and how healing from such ordeals could occur.”
The passion stayed with Mooney-McCoy as she looked at colleges. She visited her brother in Boston and became captivated by the city. After high school, she found her way to Brandeis University, just west of the city in Waltham, to study Sociology.
In between dancing and meeting her husband Bil, who is the Director of Christian Life and Worship at Gordon, Mooney-McCoy also grew stronger in her faith.
“I grew up in a church going home, but I really met Jesus through my college years,” she said.
After graduating Mooney-McCoy moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, to work at a community health center. She then spent time working with Young Life ministries and the Salvation Army before ending up at Healthy Futures, an organization dedicated to relationship education for middle and high school students in Boston.
She remained there for over 10 years but found herself focused more on curriculum development and supervising health educators. One of her co-workers was a Gordon alumnus and notified her when he saw the opening for the Clarendon director.
“What made it really attractive to me was that I would finally be able to work with students (directly) again,” she said.
Mooney-McCoy joined her husband at Gordon just in time for Clarendon Day where accepted and qualified students came to explore the campus and interview for the program.
Along with the work she does with the Clarendon Program Mooney-McCoy is also the adviser to ALANA, Gordon’s cultural awareness group. ALANA stands for African-American Latino Asian Native American and Allies and the group’s mission: to provide support and awareness around issues of race and diversity.
While Mooney-McCoy, who is an African-American, hasn’t been around for many of ALANA’s events she recognizes her role on campus where students of color make up only 19 percent of the student body.
President of ALANA Lanise Frazier ‘14 sees Mooney-McCoy as an inspiration. Frazier knows the struggle many African-American’s face when they wake up in the morning. “You choose to be a leader or choose to be conquered,” she said.
She pointed to sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, who developed a concept known as the double conscious, which describes the struggles that African-Americans face by having their identity divided amongst their race and nationality. These characteristics often come with different pressures and can cause those struggling with them to not succeed.
“How do I proceed in my everyday activities in response to these different souls that I balance everyday,” Frazier said. It may seem almost impossible, but when people like McCoy take leadership they can become an inspiration.
“If a black woman takes rightful leadership and chooses not to be conquered than nothing is impossible,” Frazier said.