There 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.