Contact: Linda Wallace
PHILADELPHIA, April 14, 2015—Community College of Philadelphia students Kouame Aka and Lizette Lewis have been named to the 2015 All-Pennsylvania Academic Team—an honor that recognizes 44 students for scholarly achievements and community involvement.
Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges paid tribute to the All-Pennsylvania Scholars on April 13 in Harrisburg, Pa. To be named to the statewide academic team, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher. Team members are eligible for scholarships offered by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that may be used at any of the system’s 14 universities. The scholarships fund up to two years of tuition in a baccalaureate program.
Aka, 22, who lives in Elmwood Park, is a first-generation college student who came to Community College of Philadelphia as a newly arrived immigrant from the Ivory Coast. An honors student in Science, he maintains a 4.0 grade point average. His plans after graduation are ambitious: earning a PhD in petroleum engineering, becoming a mathematics professor at the College, and working as an engineer. On May 2, he moves a step closer to his goals when he graduates with an associate’s degree in science.
“Graduating from a high school based in a third world country has definitely increased my thirst for a better education,” Aka said. “I grabbed the opportunity to live in the U.S. due to its great reputation for providing access to education.”
Since his second semester at the College, Aka has worked as a mathematics tutor at the College’s math learning lab, helping peers struggling with math to understand the material. “I am very grateful to the mathematics professors I have had at the College,” he said. “They improved my knowledge of math and this made it easy for me to be a tutor. I am positive that the people I have tutored will go on to be great assets to the community.”
A math whiz, Aka recalled his shock when he learned about the high failure rate of students in lower level math classes. To make a change, he rallied several classmates in his advanced math
classes to beef up the lab. “Many of my mates started to join as tutors, and the learning lab started to have the help it needed. I was elated,” he said.
Aka plans to transfer to either Drexel University or Louisiana State University in the fall, where he will major in engineering. “I hope to make a contribution to our society, as well as to ensure my family’s survival,” he said. “My hope is to set the bar high so that along the way, I could inspire my family and friends to work hard, too.”
Lewis, 46, who lives in Holmesburg, enrolled in the College as a longtime licensed practice nurse searching for a change in life. Now an honor student with a 3.86 grade point average, Lewis has received a scholarship from West Chester University, where she will attend this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Her lifelong interests in community health and education inspire her to succeed and give back to her community. A student in the Culture, Science and Technology program with a concentration in health careers, Lewis says that since enrolling in the College, she has been providing healthy living tips to her church congregation in West Philadelphia every week before Sunday service—an accomplishment she considers her most significant to date in her College career. She shares with her fellow parishioners practical lessons she has learned from her anatomy, physiology, and nutrition classes. Her presentations, she believes, are having a gradual impact.
“They’re learning about the importance of proper nutrition, how it affects the body, what to eat and what not to eat, and the recommended daily allowances,” said Lewis, an assistant pastor who also runs a youth mentoring program at her church. “These instructions are going from the church out to families and the community by word of mouth, and could help improve the overall health status of our community.”
While taking classes, Lewis also leads Delivering Services with Love, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2007 with her husband that prepares and delivers well-balanced meals and distributes clothing to the homeless and elderly. The organization plans to open a food bank in North Philadelphia in the coming months.
“I want to give back to the community by letting them know that there is something else greater out there than public assistance,” said Lewis, herself a former recipient of public assistance. “I want to encourage them to become whatever their hearts desire, while at the same time, I want to help improve the economy by providing jobs for those in need.”
The College will hold its 50th commencement at 10 a.m., on May 2 at the Liacouras Center, 1776 North Broad Street. Kathleen Hetherington, President of Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., and an alumna of Community College of Philadelphia, will deliver the commencement address.