Tag Archives: HSE Staffing Agency

College ABCs: Preparing for higher education at Bethel AME.

Life hasn’t always been easy for Stephen Ampersand.

Still, he was eager to share his experiences with teens and parents attending this year’s Bethel AME Church College Prep Workshop in Harrisburg.

Today, Ampersand is vice president of student affairs and enrollment management at HACC, but, as he told it, it was an uphill journey. Growing up, he spent a year living in a car with his family after his mother lost her job and, subsequently, their home. Following that, they lived in homeless shelters. The family moved around so much that Ampersand attended four different middle schools.

Life’s hardships only fueled his determination to work hard in school and overcome his life circumstances. He went on to earn degrees from Pierce College and Wilmington University before starting a career in education services management in 2004.

“If you study and work hard, you can go to college,” Ampersand said. “You can change not only your life, but your own family tree.”

One-Stop Shop
Since 2016, Bethel AME Church has hosted a college prep workshop geared toward students in grades 9 to 12 and their parents. This year’s event, held in January, attracted 75 attendees, said Myra Blackwell, chair of Bethel AME’s scholarship committee.

“This is not your typical college prep workshop,” Blackwell stressed. “Facilitators from HACC come in and give an overview of steps one must take to prepare for college. HACC also does a panel discussion.”

Half of the facilitators from HACC are part of the president’s cabinet, she said.

“It’s not that often you find people who are in senior-level positions participating in a college prep workshop,” Blackwell said.

HACC speakers kicked off the first half of the three-hour workshop, followed by representatives of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, who discussed financing options.

“This workshop really is a one-stop shop for both students and parents,” Blackwell stated.

The workshop is the brainstorm of Bethel AME’s four-member scholarship committee, chaired by Blackwell. Blackwell said she got the idea while watching a HACC facilitator speak to students at her cousin’s church in Allentown.

“I thought, if they can do it, we can do here,” Blackwell recalled. “I want young people to learn their options. I want them to know that they can go to college or they can learn a trade. I know all of this can be stressful for a young person, and we want to make a little bit easier for them.”

In fact, a small contingent from Allentown’s Union Baptist Church travelled to Harrisburg to attend this year’s workshop.

“We wanted them to get familiarized with the college process,” said Asia Rozier, a youth ministry assistant in Allentown.

Keep Pushing
Ryanna Hendricks, a ninth-grader at Central Dauphin East High School, came to the workshop with her sister Serena, a CD East 11th-grader.

“I came here to learn more about HACC, scholarships and financial aid,” she explained.

Ryanna said she’d like to earn a four-year college degree and become an endodontist, a dental disease specialist. Serena plans to become a college business major and eventually open up her own business, she said.

Reshon Ross, an 11th-grader at Dauphin County Technical School, attended the workshop with sister Ayanna and their mother, Monika Ross.

“I’m here just to get some experience, to see what I can get out of college and see what I can be,” said Reshon, who is in the small engine equipment technology program at DC Tech.

“I’ve gotten some good information here today,” Monika Ross noted.

The HACC portion of the workshop closed with alumni sharing stories. Like Ampersand, none of the graduates who spoke appeared to have a straight, easy path to success, but they made it despite the odds.

Johnny Birch, Jr., is a 2011 HACC graduate who studied business, hospitality and tourism. Today, he is owner and operator of Carlisle Tae Kwon Do & Fitness Academy.

“I came from a single-parent home, barely had anything,” Birch recalled. “I was really mad and beat things up. I was a bully.”

Birch’s mother and guidance counselor sent him to martial arts classes as a way to channel his aggression in a more positive manner. The strategy worked, and he later became a martial arts state champion.

After that, Birch joined the military.

“For six years, I was a first-class athlete,” he said. “Then my body started to give out, and I didn’t know what to do.”

After a brief stint as a musician, Birch decided to open a business, but, he said, “didn’t know the right people.” Then he enrolled in HACC and, soon after, 50 people filled his martial arts studio.

Hagir Elsheikh graduated from HACC in 2011 with a degree in health careers. Today, she is founder and CEO of HSE Staffing Agency, LLC, a health care staffing firm.

“HACC changed my life,” Elsheikh told the workshop crowd. “We’re not here to set your destination, we’re just here to share our experiences. Regardless of what you go through, you can keep pushing. It is you who can decide what you want your future to be.”

Bethel AME Church is located at 1721 N. 5th St., Harrisburg. For more information about the church, visit their Facebook page: I Go to Bethel.

Continue Reading

Never Settled: Hagir Elsheikh may have finally found a home, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped moving.

Hagir S. Elsheikh conducts her life like a well-choreographed dance, gracefully managing myriad projects with an air of calm confidence and conviviality.

The electrical engineer-turned-registered nurse juggles life as a single mother with two daughters while running HSE Staffing Agency, which pairs healthcare providers with skilled employees. She also teaches at HACC as a clinical instructor and advocates for victims of violence through Tomorrow’s Smiles, her nonprofit organization.

During her “spare” time, she creates podcasts on topics like human trafficking, while studying for her master’s degree, working on her memoirs and shuttling her daughters to New York as they pursue acting careers.

For her work in the community, Elsheikh recently was recognized by the Central Penn Business Journal as a “Woman of Influence.”

“Based on her outstanding contributions to the community, it’s no surprise that Hagir won,” said Associate Publisher Shaun McCoach.



As a young girl, Elsheikh lived in the small Sudanese village of Tandalti, where her father was a physician’s assistant.

“Because of his passion for his work, he traveled from place to place,” said Elsheikh. “We would share our water with others, and the line at our faucet was long, but we, as kids, took advantage of it. The little girls and boys who would come with their families played with us, and we learned how to ride donkeys. I also remember being sad when they left.”

Life was simple back then for Elsheikh, whose family eventually left the village to reside in Khartoum, the sprawling Sudanese capital. Then the country fell to a military coup.

“Life started to get more difficult,” she said. “They began dictating what we wore, how we lived, when and where we were permitted to speak. Life as we knew it had changed.”

As Elsheikh grew older, she became an activist, paying a high price for organizing protests in high school and college, where she studied to be an electrical engineer. At one point, government officials beat her for about 10 hours, she said.

“I could smell my own blood, but couldn’t feel my body anymore,” she said. “Close to sunrise, they threw me in the back of a pickup truck and pitched me out in front of my house like a bag of trash.”

Elsheikh described her harrowing struggles as difficult, but just temporarily debilitating. “It only made me stronger,” she said.

Elsheikh later married, became pregnant and moved to Egypt, where she applied for refugee status, living in a tiny, closet-sized apartment, surviving on little money and often walking miles to get to a part-time job.


Opened My Eyes

Eventually, Elsheikh was given entry into the United States. She said that she breathed a sigh of relief, but first had to survive a sleepless, 12-hour flight to Philadelphia while seven months pregnant.

“The packed flight was full of refugees, and my feet kept getting more and more swollen,” she said. “I tried walking, but nothing helped.”

After a month in the states, Elsheikh visited friends in Harrisburg and subsequently fell in love with the area.

“Those friends were kind enough to take us in and help me find work at a nearby daycare,” she said, starting her job just four months after arriving in the states and six weeks after giving birth to a healthy baby daughter.

Determined to make a good life for herself and her family, Elsheikh brushed up on her language skills, passed her driving test, began studying nights at HACC and soon became a certified nurse’s assistant. By this time, she was the family’s sole provider as her former husband lost his job, which escalated to a cycle of domestic abuse.

“It opened my eyes to ways I could help others going through this tragedy,” she said.


Greatest Reward

Today, Elsheikh concentrates on living life to the fullest and wants to help others do the same. Her HSE Staffing clients and staff appreciate the fact that she has worked in healthcare.

“We worked together when I was a new nurse, and we clicked at the onset,” said Bobbi Lehman of Enola. “Then I started working for her agency. She knows what it’s like, and, when she sends me somewhere, I trust that she has checked out the place to see how they treat staff. Because she worked in the field, she knows what it’s like, and, therefore, has compassion for her employees.”

Ezekiel Lemiso also worked with Elsheikh and said she took him under her wing.

“We shared common challenges in life,” he said. “I’m from Kenya, she’s from the Sudan and we’re both single parents. She helped me adapt quickly on the job.”

Lemiso admires Elsheikh’s ability to fit so many projects into her days.

“Hagir has been through hell and back, but managed to become a successful nurse, a business owner and an advocate for civil rights, while working for victims of domestic violence,” Lemiso said.

Then, chuckling, he described her work ethic.

“Her day is 96 hours,” he said. “I sometimes tell her to relax and enjoy the fruits of her hard work. She is just amazing.”

Elsheikh returns the compliment, saying she gains inspiration from others every day, which fuels her motivation to work harder to help.

“The greatest reward for me is to see people around me succeed and help them reach their full potential,” she said. “It brings joy to my heart, and what keeps me going is my ability to inspire others through my stories.”

Continue Reading