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Deputy Commissioner Sawyer graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia with an Associate’s degree in fire science and holds a BA in public safety administration from Holy Family University. He is currently pursuing an MA in homeland security at St. Joseph’s University.

Anyone who spent time on Main Campus this past year likely crossed paths with Jason Mays, president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

Mays seemed to be everywhere. He supported the first free book exchange hosted by students. He represented students by contributing insights to the Presidential Search Committee, the Institution-Wide Committee and the Middle States Reaccreditation Committee. He worked alongside fellow veterans, helping them transition to college. He was spotted in the corridors of the Mint Building, directing students who had lost their way.

These are just a few of the reasons Mays, 30, was named Student Leader of the Year during an April 10 Student Leadership Awards ceremony. Others honored that evening included students Jamere Lawrence, (Outstanding Leadership); Felici Wilcox (Outstanding Service); Stephen Fortt (College Mission Award); Juan Quintero (Outstanding Innovation); and Aaron Hill who received the Rising Star Award.

Mays blossomed into a leader over time, Steve Bachovin, coordinator of the Veterans Resource Center recently told a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News. “Jason was very shy, very introverted when he came here,” Bachovin said. Mays said he took small steps at first, joining the Veterans Club, and later the dance club Ritmo Latino. “I just kind of wanted to come here for classes, then leave,” he said. “It was at the direction of the social worker at the Veterans Administration that I joined the Latin dance club and started to open up.”

Military service helped him develop leadership capability as well.  “In the Army I learned that to be a team leader, you have to respect your team. When you’re actually in the field, you learn that respect goes both ways,” Mays said.

That perspective proved useful at a highly diverse College where he inspired students across generations to collaborate, solve problems and serve the community.

A member of the Class of 2014, Mays recently earned an Associate in Arts in Business Administration. He has been accepted at Drexel University, though he has not yet decided on a transfer institution.

Instead, he plans to take a few additional classes at the College this fall and spring, and complete a second term as SGA president. Students re-elected him in April.

While representing his peers, Mays believes he found his true calling — politics. “I’ve sort of become interested in continuing to serve the people around me,” he said.

 Jotaka Eaddy - 2013 Commencement SpeakerThere were lights, cameras, as well as a memorable call to action during Community College of Philadelphia’s 48th Annual Commencement where Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the NAACP in Washington DC, encouraged students to follow their north star to success.

More than 1,100 of the Class of 2014's 2,376 candidates for graduation attended the May 3 ceremony at the Liacouras Center, bringing along throngs of elated family and friends. The Class of 2012, with 1,823 graduates, previously was the largest class.

This year's Commencement theme, "Lights, Cameras, and Action", served as a reminder of the graduates' higher purpose, a theme woven into the fabric of college life, through leadership training, community service activities and academic classes. Eaddy's address encouraged graduates to stay connected to others as their journey continues.

"Each of us is on a great journey or path of life. That journey teaches us all things, reminds us of all things. These paths, I believe, are all connected," said Eaddy who turned an early interest in civic engagement into a fascinating career, where she travels the world to champion human rights issues. "Keep your eye on your north star. On your journey, you may fall — and we all fall sometimes. What's important is that you get back up. Always remember that you are powerful — no matter where you started, no matter where you're from."

Before starting her speech, Eaddy took a selfie with the graduates standing in the background. The image was posted to the College's Twitter account and on Instagram. All that social activity generated a buzz, as the hashtag began trending in Philadelphia during the event.

Interim President Judith Gay, Ph.D., urged students to use knowledge for the greater good. "The skills and wisdom you have acquired, what you have discovered about yourself, and the progress you have made will continue to serve you throughout your life," she said. "These experiences are yours to build upon, to improve upon, and to help inspire others. Equipped with new directions, goals and dreams, you are ready for the road ahead. You will demonstrate the strength of Community College of Philadelphia graduates and your contributions will help the city flourish."

Student speaker Erika Lawrence, who will transfer to Temple University this fall, echoed the theme of public service. She said community service activities gave her new confidence and led to amazing opportunities, such as an invitation to join Temple University President Neil D. Theobald, Ph.D., at a breakfast. An honor student, Lawrence will continue her studies in global marketing.

"We hold a meaningful degree that can now open many doors. Our possibilities have now become limitless," she said. "Let's walk into the possibilities the world has in store for us."

Six College employees, 16 international students, and 81 veterans were among this year’s class. The College awarded a total of 2,510 degrees and certificates. During the ceremony, Dr. Gay announced that Associate Professor Richard Frei, Ph.D., was the winner of the 2014 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award, established by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation. As the honoree, Dr. Frei will deliver a celebrated lecture during the 2014-2015 academic year.

The College's Regional Centers presented Distinguished Leadership Awards to high school, business and community leaders during a series of neighborhood breakfasts on April 29, 30 and May 1. This was the 15th year the Regional Centers presented the awards to honorees who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to their community.

The Northeast Regional Center held its award ceremony on April 29. The winners were:

Business – Kent C. Lufkin, President and CEO, 3rd Fed Bank
Education – Rob Caroselli, Principal, Fox Chase Academics Plus School
Public Official – The Honorable Bobby Henon, Councilman 6th District, City of Philadelphia
Faith-Based – Rev. Scott C. Dorsey, Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church of Holmesburg
Community Service – Seth Kaplan, Chief of Staff, Office of State Rep. Kevin Boyle
Youth – Laura Naylor, Senior, Archbishop Ryan High School

Seated, left to right: Bobby Henon, Kent C. Lufkin, and Laura Naylor. Standing, left to right: Interim President Judith Gay, Ph.D.; Rob Caroselli, Seth Kaplan and Rev. Scott C. Dorsey.


The Northwest Regional Center held its award ceremony on April 30. The winners were:

Business – Pamela Rich-Wheeler, Co-founder and Executive Director, The Business Center for Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise
Education – Michael Cruz, Program Manager, Operations and Grant Development Office of Early Childhood Education, Head Start Program, School District of Philadelphia
Public Official – The Honorable Cindy Bass, Councilwoman, 8th District, City of Philadelphia
Faith-Based – Clement M. Lupton, III, Pastor Beloved, St. John Evangelistic Church
Community Service – Alex Peay, President and Founder, Rising Sons
Youth – Shemaiah Clarke, Senior, Mastery Charter School – Pickett Campus

Seated, left to right: Michael Cruz, Shemaiah Clarke and the Honorable Cindy Bass. Standing, left to right: Chad Dion Lassiter, Community College of Philadelphia trustee, Pamela Rich-Wheeler, Alexander Peay and Rev. Clement M. Lupton, III.


The West Regional Center held its breakfast May 1. The winners were:

Business – Patricia Fennell-Peaks, Senior Analyst, PECO
Education – Ana E. Núñez, M.D., Associate Dean of Urban Health Equity, Education and Research, Director of the Center of Excellence and Women’s Health Education Program, and professor of Medicine at Drexel University
Public Official – The Honorable Robert A. Brady, U.S. Representative, 1st Congressional District
Faith-Based – W. Lonni Herndon, Senior Pastor, The Church of Christian Compassion
Community Service – George Stevens, President, Lancaster Avenue 21st Century Business Association
Youth – Isaiah Gordon Senior, Mastery Charter School – Thomas Campus

Seated, left to right: Patricia A. Fennell-Peaks; Terry O’Donnell, collecting the award for Pastor Herndon; and Tom Johnson, collecting the award for Congressman Robert A. Brady. Standing, left to right: the Honorable James R. Roebuck, Jr., College trustee; George Stevens; Ana E. Núñez; Isaiah Gordon and Interim President Judith Gay, Ph.D.

Ann SIlverman

Associate professor of English Ann Silverman is saying goodbye to the College this year, but not before leaving it with a remarkable legacy.

This past fall, she instructed and led 17 advanced English as a Second Language students in a multimedia project designed to engage the students, as well as the broader community, in learning activities. Each of her students received a camera to take photos of his or her neighborhood, and then narrated brief videos that provide a glimpse of the life and culture in these neighborhoods.

“They had to write about these photographs, and then practice narrating them. They learned about the city,” Silverman said.

On the video the students described neighborhood locations, the architecture of buildings and offered historical facts about sites shown in the photos. Arnold DiBlasi, associate professor and head of academic computing, assisted by turning the video snippets into a 33-minute documentary called “Settling In.”

Silverman’s students had immigrated from Armenia, China, Columbia, Sri Lanka, Qatar, Pakistan, Vietnam, Venezuela, India, Ivory Coast and Morocco. They, and their families, settled in various sections of the city, including Holmesburg, North Philadelphia, and South Philadelphia.

Aurora Deshauteurs, curator of the Print and Picture Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia, collaborated with Silverman on the initiative and visited the class during the year to offer pointers on using photos to document history. The class also visited her department at the Central Library to look at archival photos of city neighborhoods.

Silverman was among 27 retiring faculty and staff members who were honored during the annual retirement celebration on April 17 in the Sandra E. Klein Cube. A celebratory dinner was held later that evening at R2L, a restaurant on the 37th floor of Two Liberty Place. The retirees’ years of service ranged from 10 to 47. This year’s group included Thomas Hawk, Ph.D., former vice president for Finance and Planning, and treasurer; and Jane Grosset, director of Institutional Research.

Silverman said she plans to trade the lectern for a classroom desk during retirement. “I plan to finish learning Chinese,” she said.

She also plans to volunteer at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey (D-PA) visited Community College of Philadelphia on April 25 to accept the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award, which is named for a respected jurist noted for his humanity, humility and powerful decisions.

Casey used the occasion to discuss food insecurity, an issue that often remains hidden from public view. Just last year, U.S. Sens. Casey, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act, which would expand and create permanent tax incentives for businesses that donate to food banks.

At the award ceremony, Casey called food security, among children especially, an issue of justice. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan includes cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $137 billion — 18 percent — over the next ten years.

"If we make cuts like this, in my judgment, I hope I don't offend someone in either party, you do rob people. You rob children of basic food security. You will rob children of basic health care. You don't help the rest of us along the way. There is no fiscal justification for those kinds of cuts. They are damaging to all of us. They diminish all of us."

Quaris CarterSeated in the audience was Quaris Carter, a student at Community College of Philadelphia who has been both homeless and hungry at times. Afterwards, Sen. Casey met and spoke with Carter, who told him that his efforts to promote food security make a difference to Philadelphians struggling to stay in school, pay for rent and food, and obtain a college degree.

"For me to actually meet a senator in person, it showed that he actually cared. I actually felt empowered, more than just reading a book or article about him," Carter explained after the event. "I was telling him that by him providing funds pertaining to food, it actually enabled me to have the basics that helped me concentrate more on the academics. Food. Shelter. Clothing — these are all essentials. “Once I had the food, the shelter, and the clothing, I was able to concentrate on my academics."

Carter shared some good news with Senator Casey: he would be among the 2,376 candidates for graduation at Community College of Philadelphia's Commencement on Saturday, May 3. Carter, who has a 3.2 grade point average, is planning to transfer to La Salle University, where he has received a scholarship.

The recent increases to the Pell Grant, which Sen. Casey also supported, offered support along his educational journey, as did the College's new Homeless Student Support Project, which helps those facing homelessness or unstable housing situations. Quaris currently survives on roughly $8,000 a year, money he receives from the federal Pell Grant and student Work Study programs.

Sen. Casey and Quaris discovered that they shared yet another important connection. When Sen. Casey taught fifth grade in North Philadelphia, he used to ride SEPTA'S Route 33 bus, which carries people in the neighborhood to work, shopping and places that prepare them to lead better lives.

Casey made note of that as he accepted the Becker Award and discussed a few of the insights gained while riding the bus. One night, he watched a woman lug five to six bags of groceries onto the bus, and began to understand that — in this neighborhood — public transportation serves as a lifeline.

"It was one of those moments when you have an insight you didn't have before. I thought to myself, that is how she can get the groceries. Without that bus, she can't provide for her family. Then you begin to think of the other implications. That is how people get to work. So I learned a lot about this city and its people by riding the 33 bus."

Turns out that is the same bus route that Quaris Carter now takes to get to his college classes.

"I especially was impressed when he talked about riding the 33 bus because that's what I ride to get to school," Quaris said later.

Sen. Casey, for his part, praised the work of America's community colleges, which offer students from all walks and stages of life opportunities to gain marketable skills and prepare for transfer to four-year institutions.

"Community College of Philadelphia is one of those institutions on a statewide basis that we take for granted. What happens here, the higher learning, the workforce development and skill development, that is such a substantial part of our economy. The American economy will only be as strong as our community colleges."

Community College of Philadelphia has invited Jotaka Eaddy, who leads the NAACP's Voting Rights Initiative, to deliver the keynote speech at Saturday's commencement exercises. Story Dr. Gay, Ms. Eaddy and students who are among the candidates for graduation. 

Once homeless, Quaris Carter graduated with honor from Community College of Philadelphia, Saturday May 3 and will attend LaSalle University. "He's just so hungry for learning and change and growth," said Lisa Handler, assistant professor of sociology.

Front page graduation story featuring three student veterans who are candidates for graduation and credit the Veterans Resource Center for helping them. 

PHILADELPHIA, May 2, 2014—Community College of Philadelphia’s Class of 2014 could become the largest graduating class in history, but it is the students – not the numbers – that demonstrate the true promise of this city.

They come from old neighborhoods and new, from all walks and stages of life. Each is bound for different destinations: Some will transfer to the Ivy League, others to regional universities and colleges and still others will find new careers as nurses or dental hygienists.

While they were here, a number of these students faced seemingly insurmountable challenges: some were homeless, others dealt with job loss. And many will tell you they collected amazing coaches and fans along the way: teachers who guided them, peers who tutored and encouraged them, and families who never ever let them give up.

Below are just a few of the stories of the 2,376 candidates for graduation qualified to walk during the College’s 48th Annual Commencement, which begins at 10 a.m. May 3 at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, 1776 North Broad Street. Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the NAACP in Washington D.C., will give the keynote address.

Among the standout stories this year:

The Class Speaker: Erika Lawrence moved here from Kentucky after an aunt recommended Community College of Philadelphia. She is transferring to Temple University’s Fox School of Business, where she will continue her studies in marketing. “This is a great place for a new beginning” she says of the College. Erika is among the students participating in the dual admissions program, which allows students to earn an associate’s degree here and enroll with junior standing as they pursue abachelor’s degree. Dual Admission students with high gpa’s also qualify for additional scholarships.

The Study Buddies: Maria Morrero already has begun taking classes at Bryn Mawr College, though she graduates Saturday. Vincent Ancona plans to transfer either to the University of Pennsylvania or Bucknell University. This dynamic duo are part of a growing phenomenon on campuses where study partners – even those not dating – are emerging as power couples who propel one another toward their destinations. They created a learning community to give themselves an edge. Saying adios is such sweet sorrow.

Homeless but not Helpless: Quaris Carter studied a lot on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, in part, because some days he had no place else to go. He battled both hunger and homelessness while taking his courses, yet he finished the requirements for an associate’s degree in justice. He already has enrolled at LaSalle University, where he plans to continue studies in sociology.  While enrolled, he found encouragement and timely assistance from the College’s Homeless Student Support Project, which assists students facing food insecurity or housing issues.

All-Star Volunteer: Deborah Fine lost her job, and that changed the rest of her life. The displaced worker enrolled in college, where she held down two jobs, cared for her elderly father and still found time to volunteer regularly at a local homeless shelter. Through it all, she maintained a 4.0 grade point average. She is one of two Philadelphians named to the 2014 All Pennsylvania Academic Team. She has received a scholarship to West Chester University, where she will continue studies in behavioral health in the fall.

Standing Tall: Eduardo Grob, Stephen Fortt and Jason Mays are among the 81 military veterans in the Class of 2014. Grob, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves, will attend Temple University, where he will continue studies in psychology. Eventually, he wants to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Fortt, a Navy veteran, plans to enroll in either Drexel University or St. Joseph’s University to study healthcare management. On the side, he runs a nonprofit clothing referral program for men and children. Mays, a medically retired Army specialist, served as president of the Student Government Association for 2013-2014. He plans to study business at a four-year institution and pursue a career in politics. Studies have found that student veterans enhance the college experience where their discipline, teamwork and leadership skills gained in the military are strengths put to good use on campuses