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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.

PHILADELPHIA, April 17, 2014—Maria Morrero and Vincent Ancona learned together, traveled together, and even cried together as study partners in the Liberal Arts Honors Program at Community College of Philadelphia.

“We’d spend anywhere from a few days to a week at each other’s houses studying,” Vincent said recently. Maria added, “We became intellectual comrades in the Honors Program because we were fighting for each other.”

The College’s May 3 commencement marks a bittersweet turning point that will determine whether the peer support system they fostered can withstand the weight of time and success. Both students are scheduled to receive their associate’s degrees during the  48th commencement, which begins at 10 a.m. 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, will be the commencement speaker.

Maria already has started taking her classes at Bryn Mawr College where she’s majoring in cultural anthropology with a sociology minor. Vincent plans to study positive psychology, at either Bucknell University or the University of Pennsylvania. Both aspire to earn doctoral degrees, and begin careers as research professors.

After a chance meeting on campus, this duo recognized a shared interest: They were more effective, and better scholars when they studied together and collaborated. As study-buddies they found the courage to soldier on through tough assignments, received the benefit of a differing point of view, and were comforted by the knowledge that they weren’t facing scholarly challenges alone. Maria said, “What’s really important is that you have someone who respects you as a colleague, can grab your hand and say ‘You’re doing good work’.” Vincent added, “It solidifies you. You feel that you are not the only one in this program who feels that he’s getting a little lost.”

Study buddies are popping up on college campuses nationwide. Sometimes, the students find one another naturally, as Vince and Maria did. Other times they are matched. The College recently began Colonial Colleagues, which is the study buddy system formalized.  It seeks to foster a collegial relationship between students who both give and receive support from each other and meet once a month to celebrate successes. “Peers give us something that no one else can. They share the experiences that we are currently undergoing. There is a bond that can happen between college students that can help them persist in their education,” said Lynne Sutherland, Ph.D., Director of Student Success Initiatives at the College.

It worked well for Vincent and Maria who recommend that all college freshmen find partners, and develop personal learning communities as well.  “If you’re not in a study group, and you’re not working with people, and you’re not working together, then you’re doing something wrong,” he said.

Maria is attending Bryn Mawr as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. She studies often with her colleagues there, but she says it’s impossible to replicate the partnership she had with Vincent at Community College of Philadelphia. “He’s a soul friend and I haven’t been able to find any other person who I can connect with as meaningfully as him,” Maria said.

Vincent visits her at the private liberal arts college on weekends. They are looking toward an academic future where her anthropology research and his positive psychology studies will dovetail. “We’re trying to align our research and our graduate study. We want to see where anthropology and psychology meet. We’re still inspiring each other,” Vincent said.

They intend to finish their remarkable Community College of Philadelphia experience the same way they traversed it – together.

PHILADELPHIA, April 17, 2014—When Navy veteran Stephen Fortt enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia he brought with him his natural leadership ability, more than 15 years of work experience, and an enterprising spirit honed from years of running a nonprofit.

 On May 3, he will be among 81 military veterans who will be candidates for graduation at the 48th 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, will address the graduates on the importance of civic engagement, voting, and the benefits that accrue from community service.

Community service, as it happens, is Fortt’s passion. In 2002, he started a nonprofit now called Work-N-Style (www.wayprogram.webs.com) that provides gently worn clothing for children, and men re-entering the workforce. “I dress young adults and men who are returning from prison or coming out of college and looking for work. My passion is really the children and students because I’m a student and I know that students have needs, whether they’re in kindergarten or college,” Fortt said. His short-term career goal is to manage a nursing or healthcare facility and continue to run his nonprofit, which currently relies upon volunteers. He plans to take additional summer courses at the College before transferring to a four-year college for a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management.

Initially, Fortt, 38, said he wasn’t sure how he would fit in on a campus. The West Philadelphia resident left the Navy in 1998, where he served as an electrician aboard the U.S.S. Portland. He held various business positions prior to 2012, when he enrolled in school to earn a degree that would lead to more stable employment. Healthcare management seemed a practical path for him because of prior work experience.

He found that the College’s culture suited him well. “There’s tons of support and a whole lot of resources here for young adults and older students. The teachers and instructors are awesome,” he said.

On campus Fortt found a caring community of veterans at the Veterans Resource Center that helped him navigate the academic system, expand his already extensive community network, and broaden his considerable leadership skills. He became president of the Veterans Club in fall 2013. He also connected with other student leaders on campus like retired Army veteran Jason Mays, the current president of the Student Government Association, who launched the College’s first-ever free textbook exchange for students. Mays also will be among the veterans graduating on May 3.

Fortt was one of several student leaders honored this spring by the College. At a ceremony, he received the College Mission Award, which is presented to recipients who lead by example and have demonstrated multiple aspects of the College mission in their actions. His nonprofit has provided wardrobes for some of the students participating in the College’s Homeless Student Support Initiative. “There’s a whole science and ideology behind getting men to look appropriate depending on the stylish trend of the time,” Fortt said. “My mission is to help people in need.”

Across the nation, military veterans like Fortt are finding college success because of specialized clubs and resource centers that address their unique needs, according to recent studies. Fortt says the College’s Veterans Resource Center provided a valuable bridge during his transition.  It serves students who are either veterans or eligible to receive veteran education benefits through a spouse or close relative. Because of the College’s demonstrated interest in serving and supporting its military students, Victory Media recently named Community College of Philadelphia a 2014 Military Friendly School.

“The Veterans Resource Center is a very necessary resource for veteran students. It is so necessary, it’s like a major artery,” Fortt said. “If they don’t go through the Veterans Resource Center they’re classes could drop or they could face other issues such as the loss of financial aid.”

Steve Bachovin, Coordinator for the Veterans Resource Center said, “The center puts a human face on the enrollment application for our returning veterans. We recognized early on that the new post 9-11 GI Bill meant a lot more of the returning veterans were going back to school, so we put together this program where we could have them access both their school records and the Veterans Administration to streamline their entrance into higher education.”

Story stressing the importance of the College and its transfer partnership with Temple University in preparing the city's workforce. 

Women are 63 percent of Community College of Philadelphia's student body, yet over recent years faculty and staff have noticed a lack of strong female representation among the ranks of student leaders.

Hoping to help turn the tide, this semester a committee of 27 women from departments across the College organized the 2014 Women’s Leadership Conference titled, “The Woman: Mind, Body and Spirit." The day-long event featured keynote speakers, panel discussions and several breakout sessions that focused on various aspects of leadership and wellness.

More than 250 students, faculty and staff registered for the conference which was held March 26 in the Great Hall of the Winnet Student Life Building. Conference co-chairs, Claudia Curry, Ed.D., director of the Women's Outreach and Advocacy Center; and Jenavia Weaver, coordinator of Student Life and Leadership, said the program was designed to support and empower students. Mary Anderson, the last woman to serve as president of the Student Government Association, held the job in 2008. She was an SGA vice president who received the appointment after the sitting president stepped down, according to the Office of Student Life.

"From a student-first perspective, it is important to raise awareness about the importance of leadership among women college students and to encourage their participation in the leadership arena on and off campus," Curry said.

Weaver added, "The committee's intention was to offer paths to successful leadership and honor what is uniquely beautiful about being a woman."

During the conference, student Angela I. Richardson was honored as the 2014 Outstanding Student Female Leader, an award that recognizes scholarship, leadership and service.

Leadership consultant Kimberly S. Reed, managing partner and CEO of Reed Development Group, LLC provided the morning keynote titled "Igniting Your Personal Power."

Lynette Brown-Sow, Vice President of Marketing and Government Relations, provided opening remarks as well as Loraine Ballard Morrill, award-winning director of news and community affairs for Clear Channel Radio in Philadelphia and host of Insight, which airs Sundays on WDAS FM and Power 99 FM. Cherri Gregg, Community Affairs Reporter for KYW Newsradio 1060, opened the afternoon lunch program with remarks.

In an address to the luncheon audience, interim president Judith Gay, Ph.D., discussed the personality traits commonly associated with leaders. A student talent show followed. Additional workshops were held in the afternoon and the conference concluded with an evening panel discussion on barriers to leadership.

College officials presented testimony regarding the many programs the College provides and the need for increased funding during a City Council budget hearing. 

During the launch breakfast for the Spring 2014 edition of Pathways magazine, Temple University President Neil Theobald stressed the special connection between Community College of Philadelphia and his university.