Juanita Watson-Traore, now retired at age 66, came back to Community College of Philadelphia recently, a place that helped her to advance in life.
Watson-Traore first began taking courses at the College in 1967, when it was located inside the now former Snellenburg Department Store on 11th Street. She left the College to work and raise a family but came back in 2006. In 2010, she graduated with an associate’s degree in Culture, Science and Technology.
On Feb. 3, Watson-Traore found her way back to Main Campus to cheer on some remarkable students following in her footsteps. She attended the season’s first alumni tailgate event, held before men’s Colonials basketball team defeated Bucks County Community College 114-68 before a crowd of about 200 at the Athletics Center. The team is ranked fifth among Division III teams in the February 10 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll.
“I had never been to a tailgate before and it was fun,” Watson-Traore said. “I really enjoyed the event and I hope they have more of them.”
Ollie Johnson, a former member of the Philadelphia Sixers NBA basketball team, was a special guest that night. Johnson played for the Colonials as a freshman before transferring to Temple University, where he was a standout with the Owls.
With staff, students and alumni on hand, the Colonials men’s basketball team attracted one of the largest crowds of this season.
“I think one thing that is important for athletics is for the kids to see people in the stands,” Johnson said. “...Whether they are alumni, staff or other students. I think it is just a great thing.”
Before the Bucks County game started, alumni took time to catch up inside the Coffeehouse in the nearby Winnet Student Life Building, where they munched on hotdogs and chili, and played games such as a giant version of Jenga and bean bag toss.
Darryl A. Irizarry, Jr., the Annual Fund and Alumni Relations coordinator, pronounced the tailgate a huge success. Ninety-six people RSVP’d, and about 40 stropped by before the game.
“Success is pretty much seeing the smiles on our alumni’s faces,” Irizarry said. “If we have smiles on the alumni’s faces then we are doing our jobs. They haven’t been back on campus in such a long while so why not have their comeback be something fun and festive?”
There was an extra bonus as well. Athletic Director Rogers Glispy noted the College’s red-hot men’s basketball team 23-2 record (as of February 11) was now bringing people together and uniting them with a shared purpose: student success.
“I was excited, happy and proud to see our men’s basketball team bring our College community together,” Glispy said. “Our vision is being fulfilled.”
The Colonials have made it into the NJCAA Division III Region XIX tournament. The NJCAA Division III Men's Basketball National Championship Tournament goes from March 12-14 at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse, Loch Sheldrake, NY. The National Championship game will be played on March 14.