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Erika Lawrence, 2014 Class Speaker “This is a great place for a new beginning”

Erika Lawrence, 24, was seeking a new beginning in life when she stumbled upon Community College of Philadelphia, the path to possibilities.

She had been searching for an affordable two-year college with an academically rigorous curriculum that would prepare her for transfer to a globally minded university. Her two aunts in Philadelphia gave the College glowing recommendations because of its “great reputation” and seamless transfer programs and agreements.

“I moved here for Community College of Philadelphia,” said Lawrence, a Business Administration major from Bowling Green, KY who has been living with one of her aunts. “I was looking for a program that allowed me to connect to a four-year institution at a low cost . . . it was either come here to Philadelphia or go back home and live with my parents. I needed a new beginning in life. This is a great place for a new beginning.”

On May 3, Lawrence, a student in the Honors program, will be the class speaker at the College’s 48th Commencement. Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the NAACP, will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. in the Liacouras Center at 1776 N. Broad Street. Eaddy will discuss the importance of civic engagement, voting and the benefits that accrue from community service.

In just two years, Erika has managed to create a life that she could never have imagined just two years ago. She is working as an intern with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, where she mingles daily with the region’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The program provides the owners of these small regional companies with a fast-track business education while offering the opportunity to access financial capital and powerful networking opportunities.

And the internship has given Erika real-world knowledge. “It has allowed my two years of class work to come to life,” she said.

This year, Erika was elected treasurer of the Student Government Association and president of the Eta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma, an international business honor society. Alpha Beta Gamma, under her leadership, was named the College’s 2013-2014 Club of the Year at the recent student leadership awards. The club was honored for going above and beyond efforts to grow its membership, and for “leading with integrity and working to be an example of leadership.” As ABG’s president, Erika also received an award.

Her participation in College activities has created opportunities for her to meet knowledgeable academic leaders, elected officials, business experts and other VIPs. At a recent breakfast marking the launch of the College’s magazine, Pathways, Erika, was seated at the same table with Temple University President Neil D. Theobald. It was a thrill since she plans to transfer to the Fox School of Business at Temple University this fall.

Her travel last summer to Belize as part of the College’s Study Abroad program is another memory she will always cherish. That 10-day trip broadened her worldview and taught her a very important lesson about global business. “I realized I don’t know as much as I thought I did,” she said. “The world is so big and there is so much info out there. Study abroad helps students become well-rounded and more knowledgeable.”

She offers practical advice to incoming freshmen who stand now at a crossroads, as she did, searching for the right path.

“I would say not only to study hard, but get involved, Erika said. “By getting involved you are able to meet various people who can offer you exciting opportunities that you would never think of.  That is my advice. Two years ago, I would not have believed all this could happen.”