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Phi Theta Kappa Inducts 145 Scholars Who Are Ready to Give Back

 When Barb Thiel approached the stage to receive her white rose, a symbol of a newly developed relationship during her induction into the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, she thought, “Wow, look where I am – I never thought I’d care about education.” 

Thiel, a Theater major who is on track to graduate in spring 2018, was one of 145 students inducted into the prestigious honor society as friends, family, faculty and staff filled Bonnell Auditorium in November 2017 for the fall PTK Rho Upsilon Chapter induction ceremony. Every semester, 1,200 to 1,400 students from the Phi Theta Kappa Middle States Region, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are invited to join the fellowship. There are a total of 81 PTK chapters in the Middle States Region.   

Thiel, who worked as a hairdresser before enrolling in the College, plans to pursue a bachelor’s in Theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia University or the University of Southern California.

She, along with the other new inductees, studied long hours, made personal sacrifices and the reward for that effort was a coveted membership in PTK, an International society designated to two-year colleges that fosters leadership skills and promotes community-based activities.

“Phi Theta Kappa provides opportunities for intellectual exchange of ideas. Those who are accepted into the Honor Society have achieved a high level of academic achievement,” said Dr. Mary Anne Celenza, Dean, Division of Math, Science and Health Careers during her welcome address to the students. “Most of these students have full-time jobs and families and they and still excel in academic studies. It’s is an honor for Community College of Philadelphia to have these students. You will all accomplish great things and continue working toward your dreams.”

Community service is a responsibility that accompanies PTK membership. The College’s chapter is working on Commit to Complete, an ongoing initiative that asks students to make a pledge that they will their degrees, said Faith Whitfield, president of the PTK Rho Upsilon chapter. “There’s many reasons people do not graduate... we want to help them stay on track and support them. We believe if students commit to something, it helps the community,” she said.

The Rho Upsilon Chapter held a Commit to Complete event in the Bonnell Lobby in November. Faculty showed up at the event sporting shirts with the colors of their own alma maters to help support students campaign.  “Being a Phi Theta Kappa member has taught me so much about leadership and the value of community service,” said Whitfield.

In addition to helping the College community, PTK members have many perks, including eligibility for $37 million in transfer scholarship money from 700 four-year colleges and universities. 

At the ceremony, Sarah Iepson, associate professor of Arts and Honors and the PTK associate regional coordinator for the State of Pennsylvania, Middle States Region, shared the story of  Dynamite Obinna, a 2013 College graduate. Obinna transferred to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where he recently graduated from an accelerated bachelors/master’s program in aerospace engineering.

She also mentioned two 2014 graduates, Maria Morrero and Vince Ancona. who were study buddies and good friends while at the College. After attending different colleges for the baccalaureate degrees – Bryn Mawr and Bucknell University respectively – the two are study buddies once more, working on their masters at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.

“Being a Phi Theta Kappa member means everything to me. It is giving me the opportunity to apply for scholarships,” said Katy Laye Diop, a second-year student majoring in International Studies. Diop, a native of Dakar, Senegal in West Africa wants to apply to Bryn Mawr once she completes her associate.

At the end of the ceremony, new members held a candle, symbolic of the “torch of knowledge.” Some students wore the Phi Theta Kappa Key pin on their lapel, a gold slab keyed at the top and bottom, the primary symbol representing the Honor Society.