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Shawn Jorden

Shawn Jorden faced daunting roadblocks and abrupt detours on the road to earning a college degree. He dealt with a lack of housing and health care, as well as the financial struggles that often accompany unemployment.

At Community College of Philadelphia, Jorden discovered two places that were set up to help him and his peers be more successful in college and in life:  The Center for Male Engagement and Single Stop USA, a national, one-stop resource that partners with the College to connect students with additional financial resources and social services.

Jorden first connected with  the Center for Male Engagement, a program  created to assist African-American males and other underserved populations with skills to help them succeed inside and outside of class. The center provides academic support, leadership development and life skills training. In addition, he met people who treated him like family: Kevin Convington who would later become his mentor, as well as Derrick Perkins, the director of the program.

"The first semester was kind of rocky and then my second semester I kind of started to pull things together," Jorden said. "I started to have a clear mind when talking to Derrick and Kevin, who were motivating me."

The Center for Male Engagement then referred him to Single Stop, where Jorden found information on addressing life challenges and how and where to get a job. Single Stop also helped him develop a plan for financial success and apply for benefits. “We empower students to develop a plan for their lives based on their needs and take the lead on following through with their goals,” said Paula Umaña, Single Stop’s Project Director at the College.

Single Stop helped Shawn with his resume, which helped him in secure a paid work-study job. It also provided credit counseling, helped him craft a long-term financial plan, and provided experts to help with his tax returns. After many attempts and denials, Shawn was finally approved for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and later for Medicaid, after its partial expansion.

When Shawn walked across the stage on May 2 to pick up his degrees in Psychology and Liberal Arts, he had secured much more than a plan for the next stage of life. He gained new life skills and the confidence to fulfill his educational goals.

"I would like to see myself walking across that stage again, and I am capable of that," said Jorden who now plans to pursue a bachelor's degree.

It was back in January when President Obama first proposed making two years of community college free for every American. Some individual colleges, such as the Community College of Philadelphia and Harper College, are offering tuition-free models.

One of the beneficiaries of the program is Jennifer Hill, who is in her last year at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Abdul-Hakim Muhammad As-Salafee has traveled a non-traditional path from working in the Philadelphia Prison System to the University of Pennsylvania.  As he was about to graduate from the Community College of Philadelphia in 2012, a chance encounter in the hallway led to a life-changing moment.

The SCEP WorkReady program, administered by the Philadelphia Youth Network through North Light, gives Philadelphia teens the opportunity to pursue internships at more than 20 local businesses located in the Roxborough/Manayunk area and across the city.

From the Community College of Philadelphia to Oxford University, Larry Liam Ching Liu, 23, continues his remarkable scholastic journey after being named the Cooke Foundation’s first Oxford Scholar.

Individual community colleges have also  launched programs that could provide a free education to eligible or needy students. One example is the Community College of Philadelphia, which offered free tuition to city high school graduates from low-income families who met certain requirements.

Contact: Linda Wallace, 215-751-8082, liswallace@ccp.edu or
Annette John-Hall, 215-751-8021, anhall@ccp.edu

Mayoral Candidates Invited to Discuss Criminal Justice Reforms

WHO: District Attorney R. Seth Williams, who often talks about the need to be smart, as well as tough, on crime will discuss the criminal justice system July 27th in remarks to about 20 students who have completed the Reentry Support Project Reach College Campus Program this summer. The Reentry Support Project's Reach College Program gives new Community College of Philadelphia students with criminal records access to a first semester experience that combines academic courses with life skills workshops and wrap-around support services.

Additionally, College alumnus Jeff Copeland, a Reentry Support Project student cited as a success story by President Obama, will speak, along with two other men, who will share personal stories and class experiences.

WHEN: 3 p.m. to 4 pm Monday, July 27th

WHERE: The ceremony will be held at the Cube on the second floor of the Pavilion Building, which is on 17th Street just south of Spring Garden Street.


Community College of Philadelphia enrolls more than 34,000 credit and non-credit students. The College offers day, evening and weekend classes, as well as classes on the Internet. Visit the College at www.ccp.edu. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.

<i>Jeffrey Copeland (far left) and other ex-offenders met President Obama (center) at the NAACP convention. (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Copeland)</i>

It’s not every day you get a national shout-out from the President of the United States, especially when you’re just an ordinary guy from Philly who’s had some run-ins with the law.

But, as President Obama noted in a revelatory speech to the NAACP on criminal justice reform last week, Jeff Copeland’s determination helps him to stand apart. A formerly incarcerated Philadelphian, he received his associate’s degree, earning high honors, and is now working to complete his bachelor’s degree at Temple University.

Copeland used the Reentry Support Project (RSP) of the Fox Rothschild Center for Law & Society to guide him toward his path. Since 2010, the Reentry project has served over 500 students with criminal records seeking services to help them achieve their academic goals. In 2011, RSP established the REACH College Program to provide a select group of currently and formerly incarcerated men and women with wrap-around support services during their first academic semester. In 2014-2015, REACH enrolled 121 students, and 98 percent of those completed the semester and remained eligible for continuing enrollment. As of summer 2015, REACH has served 180 students.

Admittedly, Copeland would not have the confidence to stay the academic course if not for Tara Timberman, founder and coordinator of the Reentry Support Project. Timberman recruited Copeland to the College while he was still incarcerated. With her support, he was able to alleviate the fears he had about returning to school.

“She held my hand,” Copeland said. “At no point did she say ‘This is too much’ or ‘I’m too busy.’ The Reentry Project enabled me to stand up for myself.”

When President Obama addressed the NAACP in Philadelphia on July 14, he mentioned the College’s Reentry project and shared Copeland’s recent achievements. It was a meaningful moment for Copeland and Timberman, both of whom were seated near the front of the stage.

In addition, Copeland, who had served time for DUI, was invited to meet Obama privately before his speech, along with three other local ex-offenders.

As Vinny Vella, a reporter for the Daily News aptly summed it up: “The discussion was equal parts serious and silly, with thoughtful debates about prison policy interspersed with banter about basketball: Copeland, noting that five men were sitting together, offered to take Obama down to a court in South Philly, where he "was sure we could find five guys to take us on.”

And to think Copeland was once nicknamed “Running Man” after the popular '80's dance because he was running in place and going nowhere fast. Now he’s taking pictures with President Obama and feeling comfortable enough to joke around with him. It’s heady stuff.

"It feels like I’m intoxicated,” he said, “without taking a drink.”

Now 30, the pianist, then a fashion major at Community College of Philadelphia, was struck by a sport-utility vehicle in 2003, an accident that shattered her pelvis and left her with extreme photosensitivity, as well as autonomic nervous system dysfunction that makes her hypersensitive to loud noise.