Three-Time Widener Education Alum Works to Inspire the Next Generation of Students
Aliya Covington’s '99 '07 '22 educational journey hasn’t always been easy, but Widener has been her home through it all.
- College of Health & Human Services
Aliya Covington’s ’99 ’07 ‘22 educational journey hasn’t always been easy, but Widener has been her home through it all.
A West Philadelphia native, she first came to Widener in 1978 with the hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree. However, it was abruptly put on hold once Aliya became pregnant with her son. Her dreams had shifted towards being a mother and focusing on her family. As time went on, she found herself working for the Philadelphia School District as a reading aid for children and fell in love with the job.
Knowing she wanted to continue working with children, she picked up where she left off nearly 20 years earlier.
Aliya liked Widener’s small, close-knit community, but she was apprehensive returning to finish her undergraduate degree after nearly two decades away from the classroom.
“I came back to Widener in 1996 and started taking my classes. At that point I was 30-something-years-old, and I was in class with 18-year-olds,” Aliya said.
She soon found her worries to be unwarranted because of the welcoming atmosphere. The ability to make personal connections with peers and faculty was unchanged.
“[Widener’s] hospitality fits my personality. I was able to get to know my professors and they got to know me through conversation,” said Aliya. “Especially when I went back for my bachelor’s I was like ‘look, I have kids at home and I’m married, and as a non-traditional student I need support’.”
Without any hesitation Widener provided what she needed.
After graduating, Aliya returned to the Philadelphia School District to teach English, but she found herself intrigued with the school counselor’s role. Shortly after beginning this new phase of her career, the certification requirements for educators changed and she found herself applying to go back to school.
“I went back to get my classes for my certification, and I was like ‘well, I might as well do the degree!’” she said.
She began pursuing her master’s in counselor education at Widener. Continuing a non-traditional student life balancing family and a full-time career.
Aliya graduated with her master’s in counselor education in 2007 from Widener. In addition, to her degree she gained knowledge from the William Penn School District as a special education teacher and substituted for counselors in various schools. These experiences led her to work at Bridgeton Public School District in New Jersey as a certified School Counselor.
Looking to return to Chester, Aliya began searching for jobs in the area and was soon working for Chester Upland School District. She works as a school counselor at the district high school level, encouraging students to pursue higher education. She advocates that students should pursue their degrees within their own community, and Widener is the place to start. She promotes Widener’s welcoming atmosphere and small class sizes as perks.
“When you go to a small high school it can be good to go to Widener after,” she said. “You can find a connection there and really feel connected.”
Aliya completed her doctor of education at Widener in 2022, finalizing her lifelong journey of education and pursuing her passion for helping students.
She credits all the faculty she had throughout her time at Widener, namely Nadine McHenry, director of the Science Teacher Center, and Patricia Dyer, director of the Writing Center, for giving their specialized support to meet her needs.
“Dr. McHenry came to work with me and took her time with me every week. She really wanted to make sure this happened for me,” Aliya said. “And the Writing Center was my best friend and the support there was truly amazing.”
Aliya continues to work as a counselor and supervisor for both students and school counselor interns at Chester High School, helping them both reach their full potential, even in the face of obstacles.
“I remember my [high school] counselors not being the best and I want to make sure that my students have an opportunity to pursue whatever they want to. I’m just a conduit to help ensure they get where they want to go.”
Aliya’s educational journey started at Widener and now she’s made Chester her home as a school counselor. “It feels like it is a full circle.”