School Days

September 25, 2021

School Days

There were days when it seemed like the COVID-19 pandemic would never end. Weeks of confinement dragged on with all group activities, outings and family visits suspended. But for three residents of Good Shepherd Home – Raker Center in Allentown, the pandemic also was an opportunity for learning and personal growth. So, it was back to school for Isaiah Natale, Felix Rodriguez and Phillip MacKelvey, who enrolled in online college classes to pursue their dreams and ambitions.

Felix Rodriguez

Felix Rodriguez, 26, is no stranger to tough challenges. The pandemic was just another obstacle to overcome. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Felix grew up in a neighborhood riddled with gangs, drugs and violence. He never strayed and kept focused on finishing high school, becoming the first child in his mother’s family to do so. “My goal was just to be successful,” says Felix, who dreamed of becoming a police officer. “I’m street smart. Now I’m just trying to get book smart.”

A car accident left Felix partially paralyzed and wheelchair-reliant. It did not diminish his drive, though, and he says he is still very goal oriented. The pandemic motivated Felix to enroll in computer information systems classes at Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC). He has a 4.0 grade-point average and is on the dean’s list.

“It just makes me feel like I’m living and still am able to do things,” says Felix, who stays connected with his classmates on Zoom. “It also shows people with similar injuries what they can accomplish.”

Isaiah Natale

Isaiah Natale, 22, signed up for a paralegal course at LCCC. He has since switched to criminal justice where he says he gets good grades and a newfound sense of purpose. “During the quarantine I had some depression,” he says. “I had no reason to get out of bed and do anything. Now I have a reason to get up and dressed.”

Isaiah has been living with a spinal cord injury since he was four. He struggled with mental health problems but graduated from high school. In 2018, before coming to Good Shepherd, Isaiah took some online classes at another college but withdrew citing concerns his mother had about the legitimacy of the school. He moved to Good Shepherd in 2019 and was motivated to resume his studies at LCCC by his parents and a doctor in his spinal cord injury support group.

“He said, ‘Don’t just sit back. You need to do something to keep your mind going,’” says Isaiah. “That was inspirational.”

Going back to school has honed Isaiah’s time-management skills. He is grateful for the support he gets from his professors and some of his nurses at Good Shepherd. “This place is amazing,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of great things since coming here.”

Phillip MacKelvey

Phillip MacKelvey, 25, is the self-described “resident computer geek.”

“I love all things digital, even when they don’t love me back,” he quips.

Gaming and computers have been Phillip’s passion since childhood. He is now enrolled online with University of Phoenix and is studying for a bachelor of science in information technology with an advanced software development certificate. He has a 4.0 grade-point average and is on the president’s list. “After I finish my degree I plan to start my own business in the gaming industry,” he says. “I have some ideas for games I want to develop.”

Phillip, who suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident when he was 17, says he is more of an introverted gamer, but that comes with a benefit. “There can be power in introversion,” says Phillip. Engaging with his professors and others online was harder than he expected. “It helped me stay connected in ways I didn’t expect I would need,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest benefit Phillip sees is improvement in his thought processes and using that knowledge in new ways. “I notice I can be more analytical in some situations,” he says. “I don’t know how much of that is college or my brain just developing, but recognizing the growth in me has been interesting.”

To support expert and compassionate long-term care for the residents at the Good Shepherd Homes, visit or contact the Development Office at 610-778-1075.