Student from Mount Airy Wins Coca-Cola National Scholarship and Joins All-Pennsylvania Academic Team

PHILADELPHIA, April. 12, 2010 —Shameka Sawyer has earned double honors as a 2010 All-Pennsylvania Academic Team member and as a 2010 Coca-Cola Gold Scholar in a national competition sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and administered by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Today, Sawyer and the other All-Pennsylvania team members, two from each community college in the state, will be honored by the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges at a ceremony that will be held in Harrisburg, Pa.

As an All-Pennsylvania team member, Sawyer, a Communications major with a 3.91 grade point average, is eligible for a full scholarship to any of the state’s 14 public colleges and universities. She is one of two Community College of Philadelphia students selected for the All-Pennsylvania team. The other student is Fraidel Phelps, an Education major, from Northeast Philadelphia.

As a Coca-Cola Gold scholar, Sawyer will receive $1,500 and she represented the College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at Phi Theta Kappa’s 92nd Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., April 8-10. In addition, the names of the Coca-Cola gold, bronze and silver award winners will be published in a special section of the USA Today newspaper on April 19. Sawyer was selected as one of 50 national gold scholars based on her scores earned in the All-USA Academic Team competition that includes top community college scholars from every state.

Fraidel Phelps also was a national finalist in the 2010 Coca-Cola All-State Community College Academic Team program. She will receive $1,000. It is the second year in a row that Community College of Philadelphia students have won awards in the national Coca-Cola competition.

Sawyer’s personal responsibilities make her academic achievements especially impressive. The 32-year-old is a single parent with three children, ranging in age from two to 16 years old.

Sawyer went to work right after graduating high school. At 30, she was working as an administrative assistant and fearing a layoff. That is when she decided to pursue a college degree and expand her career opportunities. Sawyer chose Community College of Philadelphia for its affordability, diverse student body and flexible hours. “Here is a better option for me as an adult,” Sawyer said. “I knew that here I could get a fresh start and feel more comfortable than I would be at a university.”

Sawyer is a full-time student with a position in the College’s Marketing and Government Relations Division. “I try my best to use my time here as best I can, so that when I go home, the majority of that time is for my kids,” she said. “Once they’re taken care of and are asleep, I finish whatever I have left to do. I am often up very late, but I know that it is all going to be worthwhile.”

After so many years out of the classroom, she was surprised by her academic success. “I was an okay student in high school, so I expected to be okay here. But I ended up getting excellent grades all over the place. I was amazed that I could do that,” she said.

Although she is a vice president of service for Phi Theta Kappa’s Rho Upsilon chapter at the College, Sawyer said she was surprised by her selection for the All-Pennsylvania team. “I was actually shocked when I got the call,” she said. “I knew there was a lot of competition for it. I had to sit there for a second and ask myself: ‘Is this really happening to me’. I was at a loss for words.”

Sawyer said she wants to serve as a role model for her children, especially her oldest son. “That is one reason I decided to come back to college, because I wanted to be the message not just preach it,” she said. “I wanted to show them that they can do it and that they don’t have to settle for less.”

The All-Pennsylvania Academic Team program began as an outgrowth of the All-USA Community College Academic Team and the Coca-Cola All-State Community College Academic Team programs. Phi Theta Kappa coordinates the awards programs, which are sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Candidates are drawn from the all-state teams in 50 participating states and Canada. The programs share a common application and eligibility criteria.