Darryl Irizarry, Jr.’s home in West Kensington was a sanctuary of love and stability where education was a priority and family values shielded him and his sister from the lure of the streets.
Principles and morals instilled by his parents, coupled with a curiosity about learning, enabled him to avoid the tragic ending that took the lives of some of his peers. “Some of my friends growing up — sadly — are dead or in jail or struggling because of bad choices they made. I had a foundation, which was my mother and father, and they always instilled in me the value of education,” Irizarry, Jr., 29, said. “My father always said, ‘You are going to make something out of yourself’.”
Irizarry, Jr. serves as the Annual Fund and Alumni Relations coordinator at Community College of Philadelphia, the institution from which he graduated in 2006. He and his sister are the first to receive their bachelor degrees, but their success marks an achievement for this family, which, for decades, has sacrificed to give the next generation better lives.
“My grandparents on both sides didn’t have a high school diploma,” Irizarry, Jr. said. “My parents had a high school diploma. My sister and I earned bachelor’s degrees. And now, my goal is to provide a path that will take my two children as far as they can go.”
Since our founding in 1964 and opening our doors to students for the first time on September 23, 1965, Community College of Philadelphia has served more than 685,000 individuals. The College’s graduates have risen to leadership ranks in business, government and education.
Darryl Irizarry, Sr. said that he and his wife, Glory, took time to stay involved in their children’s school-work. “At a very young age we would sit down with them and make sure they did their homework. We went to afterschool meetings with teachers. After school, we picked them up,” Irizarry, Sr. said.
Irizarry, Jr. believes that his family’s support was the crucial link, and now he is preparing his sons to climb higher on the ladder of opportunity.
As a graduate of Philadelphia public schools, Irizarry, Jr. earned top honors but needed a little help getting college-ready. He found the doors wide open at Community College of Philadelphia, the destination of choice for nearly a third of the graduates from Philadelphia’s public high schools.
“My high school lacked the ability to prepare students to get into college, and I think that Community College of Philadelphia really filled that void. It gave me the essentials I needed in order to go into a four-year college and be successful,” Irizarry, Jr. said.
He entered the College’s dual admissions program, which provided him with a seamless transfer to Temple University and some scholarship extra funds as he earned his bachelor’s degree in Business. Well-timed contributions from his parents, coupled with other scholarship and grants, enabled him avoid taking loans.
“The affordability component was huge,” he said. “That’s what allowed me not to have debt. I’m in a better position now to create a college fund for my kids because I didn’t have loans.”
Over the years, the College has served multiple roles in the lives of Philadelphians like those in the Irizarry family. It has served more than 685,000 students since opening 50 years ago, including an increasing number of Hispanic students.
Sometimes the graduates become employees, and the children of employees become graduates. Irizarry, Jr.’s sister, Jessica, graduated from the College in 2008. His mother previously worked at the institution and his father is currently employed here servicing heating ventilation and air-conditioning systems.
Today Irizarry, Jr. is working to help the next generation of children growing up in neighborhoods like West Kensington. He leads fundraising for a North Philadelphia event called Vale La Pena, which supports youth with afterschool programs and recognizes Hispanic leaders. His work with the regional chapter for the Boy Scouts of America last year helped bring back the Philadelphia Encampment, which gave many urban scouts their first camping experience.
“I want to show my sons no matter where you are in life, you should always be kind to everyone,” Irizarry, Jr. said. “And if you’ve got it, give it to others.”