"I like to think of them almost as my family," he said.
Hambrick is one of the first beneficiaries of an initiative that will provide up to new 150 jobs in the Chester area.
Thursday was the official opening of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency's fourth and newest customer service center. The agency's first office in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the new call center is located in the Wharf at Rivertown, on the Chester waterfront. PHEAA, a quasi-public state agency, provides financial aid services to students and colleges.
Numerous elected officials and others turned out Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the center actually went into operation last month, training the first cohort of what will eventually be 150 counselors. A second group was at their computers this week, busy learning new jobs.
"I'm happy to be here and celebrate this occasion," said State Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, who represents Chester, a city much in need of employment opportunities.
State Rep. William Adolph Jr. (R., Delaware), chairman of the PHEAA, said the center would be fully operational by June. He said the center was funded by PHEAA's earnings. Those earnings also provided $75 million this year to the Pennsylvania State Grant program, which aids students, according to agency officials.
The next recruitment sessions for jobs at the center will be Nov. 6 and Dec. 4 at the Pennsylvania CareerLink Delaware County, in Chester. The jobs start at $11.50 an hour, and candidates are paid throughout their five weeks of training.
Tom Nee, 23, of Springfield was glad to be one of them. A business-management major, he graduated from West Chester University in May and has to start paying back his own student loans in November.
Once upon a time, Bernicea Jackson, 30, of Chester thought she was bound for college; she said she was accepted by the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and other schools. But she didn't have the money.
After working in collections and customer service several years, she got laid off two years ago. Since then, she said, her jobs have been short term, mostly in retail.
Now, however, she is excited about her PHEAA job, which she started training for Oct. 9. It will help her contribute to an education savings account for daughter Paris, 8.
"I hope she would go to college," Jackson said.
Contact Rita Giordano at 610-627-2649, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ritagiordano.