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“Manshop,” a bold stage comedy by up-and-coming playwright/director Wanda Farlow Cooke (aka Freedom), comes to the Arts Bank on Broad Street for one performance only, at 6 p.m. on May 7.

A vivacious Germantown native who attended Martin Luther King High School, “Manshop” is the theatrical debut for Freedom, who has a degree in Sign Language Interpreting from Community College of Philadelphia and a master’s degree in social work from Temple University.

The announcement came as part of a week of events hosted by the White House surrounding College Signing Day, including a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Community College of Philadelphia and a visit by first lady Michelle Obama to New York City’s Harlem Armory for an event attended by thousands of New York high school students.

Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement on Monday at the Community College of Philadelphia. The community college launched a free program last April that was modeled after the America’s College Promise plan, a joint state and federal effort to give responsible students two years of free instruction at a community college.

Also scheduled are an investment banker, a national political commentator, an advocate for the homeless, a pharmacologist, a judge, a renowned sculptor, a Los Angeles pastor whose enterprise trains former gang members for honest work, and a 2012 Community College of Philadelphia grad who works with Michelle Obama in the White House.

The student demographic at CCP truly represents the people of Philadelphia - perhaps more so than at any other college in the city. As such, the students' poems on Drop the Mic are testimonials to what it means to be a Philadelphian. Their voices are strong and proud, as well as angry and filled with pain at times, yet still hopeful. Even when they are mourning lost family members, calling out false lovers, or railing against racial prejudices, they are celebrating life, untamed though it may be.

Dyer — who works with first lady Michelle Obama to plan, arrange and coordinate social events hosted by the First Family — will return home to deliver the commencement address at Community College of Philadelphia. Having been unable to attend her own graduation ceremony four years ago, Dyer will not only address 2,100 graduates. She will also accept her own associate’s degree during the morning’s ceremony.

Dr. Claudia Curry, director of the Women’s Outreach and Advocacy Center and conference co-chair, welcomes participants to the 2016 Women’s Leadership Conference at Community College of Philadelphia. The theme of the conference, “Opportunities: Recognize, Maximize and Capitalize,” made for fascinating panel discussions and networking opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members. Imzadi Davis (also pictured), a mass media major at the College and member of The Vanguard staff, served as mistress of ceremonies.

Alumni Mixer

Karen E Nelson

Dr. Karen E. Nelson’s social-good science knows no bounds. A microbiologist whose research may one day allow doctors to match medical care to an individual’s genetic code, Nelson’s ground-breaking research has had a global impact — and it could change how people live their lives.

Her passion as a scientist is only matched by her desire to direct more students on the road to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers. Nelson, president of the renowned J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and a leader in the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project (HMP), tirelessly works to put more students, especially women and minorities, into the STEM pipeline — and keep them there.

“It’s great to get students into STEM, but we need to think about all aspects,” Nelson said at a breakfast meeting at Community College of Philadelphia April 22. “Creating opportunities for students is important, but also giving them the support so that they will be successful in the long term is important, too.”

Community College of Philadelphia, which is addressing the need for more STEM graduates to fill in-demand positions in Philadelphia, recognized Nelson for her research and advocacy with a cover story in its spring edition of Pathways, the College’s magazine. Nelson also met with the College’s STEM students while on campus.

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Nelson’s childhood fascination with plant life whetted her appetite for science. She eventually earned a Ph.D. at Cornell University; and led the first team ever to publish a paper on the human microbiome, a colony in the body teeming with varied species — bacteria, viruses, and fungi — all of which affect health and disease.

JCVI is already the response site for emerging infectious diseases, such as the Flu and Zika viruses, Nelson said. The goal is to enable health care providers to tailor treatments to the unique characteristics of an individual.

That’s where the social-good science comes in.

Imagine if an individual could lower their blood pressure with medication specifically tailored to their genetic background? Imagine too, if the doctors and scientists who did the work were as diverse as humans themselves? Such breakthroughs would truly be game-changers.

Diversity in the field makes good sense and good science, Nelson said.

“There are diseases that are specific to minorities and specific to women. If we don’t have advocates for those diseases, they’re not going to the attention they need,” said Nelson, who

mentors aspiring STEM leaders through JCVI’s Genomics Scholars Program, which provides hands-on learning opportunities with a focus on transitioning students from community colleges to four-year institutions. “I’ve had a great experience as a scientist. To the extent I can be a role model, that is what I want to do.”

Vice President Joe Biden and the Second Lady used Philadelphia Community College as the backdrop Monday to roll-out their push for free college tuition. The program provides $100-million in grants to expand job-training partnerships at community colleges. Vice President Joe Biden said it’s designed to extend free-tuition programs like the one at Community College of Philadelphia.

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