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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

PHILADELPHIA, April 28, 2014—Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the NAACP, will give the keynote address at Community College of Philadelphia’s 48th Annual Commencement.

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on May 3 at Temple University’s Liacouras Center, 1776 North Broad Street.

Erika Lawrence, 24, who will graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration and will complete her undergraduate degree at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, is the student speaker. She is one of an estimated 2,376 graduation candidates this year. That figure surpasses the number of graduates in 2012 which at 1,823 was the largest in college history. The total number of 2014 graduation candidates represents those who completed graduation requirements in Fall 2013, and are expected to complete graduation requirements in Spring 2014 and Summer 2014. About 1,200 of the graduation candidates will receive certificates and degrees during the ceremony.

The personal stories of the business student and the national voting rights advocate are rooted in the transformative power of service, civic engagement and leadership. Across the nation, colleges and universities are focused on inspiring life-long learners who understand their roles and responsibilities as citizens. Student engagement and leadership activities on college campuses can improve academic success, new research indicates.

“We have found that students who are in leadership roles and involved and engaged on campus persist at a higher rate, graduate at a higher rate, and transfer at higher rates than those who are not involved,” said Interim President Judith Gay, Ph.D.

As students advance in the workforce, the hope is they will continue to remain engaged in Philadelphia’s schools and neighborhoods. This year’s theme, “Lights, Cameras & Action”, seeks to remind them of their higher calling.

In her commencement address, Eaddy will discuss civic engagement, voting and the benefits that accrue from public service. As leader of the NAACP’s Voting Rights Initiative, she has been involved in expanding access to the ballot box across the country. As an undergraduate student, her campus involvement at the University of South Carolina served as a springboard for a career in public service and grassroots advocacy. There, she was active in student government and eventually became the first and only African American woman in the university’s 213-year history to become president of the Student Government Association.

“Voting rights and civic participation is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Eaddy said. “Ultimately, voting is the most powerful tool we have in our advocacy work to enact change. From access to quality affordable healthcare to equal educational opportunities for all children, voting is how we make voices heard and our priorities clear,” Eaddy said.

Before the 2012 general election in Pennsylvania, the College’s student leaders participated in Rock the Vote, as part of an ongoing effort to engage students in issues that affect their lives. Students handed out materials on the new Pennsylvania Voter ID law to inform peers of the new requirements. Community College of Philadelphia voluntarily changed the student and staff IDs to conform to this new statute so all eligible citizens connected to its Main campus and three regional centers could vote.

Lawrence credits her involvement in campus life with helping her to acquire the confidence to network comfortably with corporate executives and other VIPs. An honors student, she eventually wants to work in global marketing. She chose Temple University as her transfer destination because of its strong study abroad program and global connections.  

This year, Lawrence served as treasurer of the Student Government Association as well as president of the college’s Eta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma, an international business honor society. Both groups have performed community service activities throughout the year.  “By getting involved you are able to meet various people who can offer you exciting opportunities that you would never think of,” Lawrence said. “Two years ago, I would not have believed this could happen.”

Lawrence enrolled in Temple University through the College’s dual admissions transfer partnership, which allows students to earn an associate’s degree at Community College of Philadelphia and enroll with junior standing to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Temple is one of 12 four-year institutions with which the College has dual admission transfer partnerships. Dual admission students who transfer to Temple are eligible to receive from $500 to $2,000 in annual scholarship funds depending on their grade point average.

At Temple University, approximately one of every 19 students enrolled spent time at Community College of Philadelphia. In 2012, LaToya Stroman, a former Community College of Philadelphia student, served as Temple University’s student commencement speaker.

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Community College of Philadelphia is the largest public institution of higher education in Philadelphia and the sixth largest in Pennsylvania. The College enrolls approximately 34,000 students annually and offers day, evening and weekend classes, as well as classes online. Visit the College at www.ccp.edu. Follow us on Twitter.com/CCP.edu. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccp.edu

U.S. Senator Robert P.Casey, Jr is the latest recipient of the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship AwardU.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) started his career teaching fifth grade at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia and coaching basketball.

His desire to serve the public eventually led him to the U.S. Senate, where he has been guided by the wisdom of his late father, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, who believed that “all public service is a trust, given in faith and accepted in honor.”

On April 25, Sen. Casey will be recognized for his ongoing efforts to help improve communities as he becomes the sixth recipient of the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award. The presentation will be made during a 9 a.m. breakfast in the Center for Business and Industry, Room C2-5, 18th and Callowhill streets (entrance on 18th near the corner of Callowhill).

Joining him in the room will be members of the Becker family, prominent attorneys and legal scholars, and students and faculty from across the College who have benefited from Sen. Casey’s efforts to increase dollars for early childhood education and financial aid, combat hunger and protect the troops overseas. They will be available to share their personal stories with the news media.

The prestigious citizenship award is named for the Honorable Edward R. Becker (1933-2006), a judge who was as comfortable in the presence of Supreme Court Justices as he was with hourly wage workers. A Philadelphia native, Judge Becker was a brilliant scholar and a highly respected jurist. He served on the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals from 1981 to 2006, using his extensive gifts to uphold the highest standards of the law while maintaining a down-to-earth humility and common touch.

“He cared deeply about making the world a better place and recognizing the humanity in the stranger and the stranger in ourselves,” said Charles Becker, Esq., Judge Becker’s son. The Becker Award honors those who dedicate their lives to public service.

Sen. Casey could have begun his career in a comfortable office but instead he volunteered at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia, where he lived at 23rd and Girard Avenue with the other staff. Since then, he has continued to be a hands-on leader as he has worked, as a U.S. Senator, to champion funding for early learning programs, support record increases in federal financial aid and protect U.S. troops by leading efforts to stop the flow of ammonium nitrate, a key component in IEDs that have killed or wounded thousands of soldiers and civilians.

Previous Becker Award recipients include former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (2011); Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Marjorie O. Rendell (2010); Co-Founder, President and Executive Director of Project HOME, Sister Mary Scullion (2009); former U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., Esq. (2008); and U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (2007).

This year, hundreds of students found extra dollars to help pay for their education as the College launched its partnership with Single Stop USA, a nonprofit that enables us to connect students to state and federal financial resources and local community services.

The program, which began in October, has served more than 1,000 students including more than 750 students who received assistance preparing their tax returns, netting them more than $1 million in refunds to date.

In addition, Single Stop offered assistance for students who needed help navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace. On January 28, Single Stop staff launched the health care enrollment assistance sessions to familiarize students with health insurance options on Healthcare.gov and help them meet the federal deadline established for March 31, 2014.

“Working with our partners, we were able to help students enroll in health care plans that went from 12 cents per month to $120 per month, depending on their household income level,” said Paula Umaña, Single Stop project director.

The College partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Health Federation of Philadelphia, a grant-funded organization working to enroll people through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Health care navigators provided by those two organizations came to the College and worked with students in a computer lab in the Bonnell Building.

“It helped them translate all of the information that’s on the plan. Most people have about 24 plans to scroll through when they are shopping for health insurance on Healthcare.gov,” said Daniel Flynn, a health insurance counselor with Health Federation of Philadelphia.

More than 350 students attended the sessions and approximately 30 percent eventually enrolled in health care plans with monthly premiums.

Many Happy Returns

In addition to affordable health care enrollment, Single Stop’s free tax preparation services helped to provide students with a boost as well. Volunteer tax professionals from the Campaign for Working Families prepared student tax returns in Single Stop’s tax sites in the Mint Building.

Chantal Warfield, 43, a student studying to become a nurse, said normally she uses a tax preparation store, but decided to give the Single Stop tax preparers a try since it’s a free service. She’s glad she did. “It was good news,” Warfield said referring to her tax return. “They were very polite and they took their time.”

As Single Stop wrapped tax season, staff began to offer free financial empowerment workshops ranging from understanding credit reports to managing debt. Learn more about Single Stop.

Erika Lawrence, 24, was seeking a new beginning in life when she stumbled upon Community College of Philadelphia, the path to possibilities.

She had been searching for an affordable two-year college with an academically rigorous curriculum that would prepare her for transfer to a globally minded university. Her two aunts in Philadelphia gave the College glowing recommendations because of its “great reputation” and seamless transfer programs and agreements.

“I moved here for Community College of Philadelphia,” said Lawrence, a Business Administration major from Bowling Green, KY who has been living with one of her aunts. “I was looking for a program that allowed me to connect to a four-year institution at a low cost . . . it was either come here to Philadelphia or go back home and live with my parents. I needed a new beginning in life. This is a great place for a new beginning.”

On May 3, Lawrence, a student in the Honors program, will be the class speaker at the College’s 48th Commencement. Jotaka Eaddy, Senior Director for Voting Rights and Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the NAACP, will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m. in the Liacouras Center at 1776 N. Broad Street. Eaddy will discuss the importance of civic engagement, voting and the benefits that accrue from community service.

In just two years, Erika has managed to create a life that she could never have imagined just two years ago. She is working as an intern with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, where she mingles daily with the region’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs. The program provides the owners of these small regional companies with a fast-track business education while offering the opportunity to access financial capital and powerful networking opportunities.

And the internship has given Erika real-world knowledge. “It has allowed my two years of class work to come to life,” she said.

This year, Erika was elected treasurer of the Student Government Association and president of the Eta Sigma Chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma, an international business honor society. Alpha Beta Gamma, under her leadership, was named the College’s 2013-2014 Club of the Year at the recent student leadership awards. The club was honored for going above and beyond efforts to grow its membership, and for “leading with integrity and working to be an example of leadership.” As ABG’s president, Erika also received an award.

Her participation in College activities has created opportunities for her to meet knowledgeable academic leaders, elected officials, business experts and other VIPs. At a recent breakfast marking the launch of the College’s magazine, Pathways, Erika, was seated at the same table with Temple University President Neil D. Theobald. It was a thrill since she plans to transfer to the Fox School of Business at Temple University this fall.

Her travel last summer to Belize as part of the College’s Study Abroad program is another memory she will always cherish. That 10-day trip broadened her worldview and taught her a very important lesson about global business. “I realized I don’t know as much as I thought I did,” she said. “The world is so big and there is so much info out there. Study abroad helps students become well-rounded and more knowledgeable.”

She offers practical advice to incoming freshmen who stand now at a crossroads, as she did, searching for the right path.

“I would say not only to study hard, but get involved, Erika said. “By getting involved you are able to meet various people who can offer you exciting opportunities that you would never think of.  That is my advice. Two years ago, I would not have believed all this could happen.”

Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University are connected in many ways, and the Delaware Valley and its regional businesses reap the dividends of this relationship, according to Temple University President Neil D. Theobald, Ph.D.

“We work together to provide this region with its greatest asset, which is human capital,” he said. “We are the main customer-receiver of each other’s students. There are nearly 2,000 former Community College of Philadelphia students enrolled at Temple.”

Temple University has long been the top transfer destination for the College’s students. In fact, about one in 19 Temple students formerly attended the College. One in seven college grads in Philadelphia is a Temple graduate.

Some Temple students also transfer to Community College of Philadelphia to earn credits or earn new credentials. In a 2006 report, 38 percent of Community College of Philadelphia students enrolled in a career program said they were reverse transfers and Temple was the institution they were most likely to have attended. “In short, Community College of Philadelphia is invaluable for Temple University,” Dr. Theobald told the audience.

The College’s diverse student population adds to the Temple University experience, he said. “They provide something really different at Temple. They tend to be more experienced. They bring their work history, their insights, their experience to our classroom discussions,” Dr. Theobald said. “(They)… really provide a nice mix for us that enhances the experience for everyone.”

Dr. Theobald also highlighted other shared goals and common interests as he spoke to College staff and regional business leaders on April 8 at the launch breakfast for the Spring 2014 edition of Pathways, the magazine of Community College of Philadelphia. Seated at his table throughout the breakfast was Erika Lawrence, the College’s 2014 student Commencement speaker who plans to transfer to Temple’s Fox School of Business.

Temple and Community College of Philadelphia both play a large role in educating and preparing the workers that area educational institutions and hospitals need, he said, adding that the region’s future, in large part, lies in the strength of its “eds and meds.”

His remarks took a serious turn as he touched on the problem of growing student loan debt. “We have got to do something that addresses this issue of affordability in higher education and keeps costs low,” Dr. Theobald said.

Community College of Philadelphia’s clearly-defined paths to possibilities help many students transferring to Temple to reduce those costs. “That’s where the transfer agreement with the College is a big help because it lowers the cost of a bachelor’s degree, he said.

In the Pathways article about Dr. Theobald, he addresses the importance of a liberal arts education to the world economy, Temple’s role and responsibility in moving the city forward, and the need to reduce student debt. Other articles examine the unique learning environment of the honors program; the College’s new psychology degree that prepares students to become counselors, educators and researchers in addition to psychologists, and a host of other career options.

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