Mayor Michael A. Nutter urged 1,819 Community College of Philadelphia graduates to look at the associate’s degrees and certificates they received at Commencement on May 4 not as the end of their educational journey, but as something more.
Quoting Winston Churchill, England’s Prime Minister during World War II, Nutter told the graduating class of 2008: “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Those words uttered during another time of war are appropriate given today’s troubling times, said Nutter, whose Commencement appearance was delayed by his need to deal with the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer. He asked the graduates and the thousands of family members and friends gathered in Temple University’s Liacouras Center to observe a moment of silence in honor of the officer who was gunned down during a grocery store robbery.
“You’ve taken these first steps, and now, of course, you know there is more to be done and more knowledge for you to acquire,” Nutter said. “Learning should never stop … let me encourage you; let me implore you to please continue your educational journey.”
Nutter cited statistics showing the city’s need for a “better educated” population—a 45 percent high school dropout rate, a 25 percent poverty rate and only 18 percent of residents over 25 with a four-year undergraduate degree.
Before the mayor’s arrival, President Curtis conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters on City Council President Anna C. Verna. President Curtis praised Verna, the first woman to lead the 17-member legislative body, for dedicating her life to public service. Verna is serving her eighth term in City Council and her third as Council President. In the 1990s as chair of the Finance Committee, she helped the city restore fiscal stability and avoid bankruptcy. She also sponsored a property tax reform bill to freeze tax rates for low income senior citizens and successfully fought for more funding to hire additional police officers.
More recently, Verna has sponsored initiatives to investigate high school dropout rates and, as a longtime supporter of education, she supported Nutter’s proposal to increase funding for Community College of Philadelphia by $4 million this year.
Over its 43-year history, Community College of Philadelphia has educated and helped create the path to possibilities for more than 580,000 Philadelphians and thousands of international students.
“Today, you will join the ranks of these talented and diverse alumni, and, along with them, create positive change for the future … the possibilities are endless,” President Curtis said.
Among this year’s outstanding graduates was Safi Parker, who was chosen as an All-Pennsylvania Academic Scholar this year for her outstanding academic performance and service to the College and the community. Parker, who was this year’s student speaker, graduated with highest honors and a degree in Culture, Science and Technology, earned while working as a certified nursing assistant. She plans on attending West Chester University to pursue a degree in Nursing.
Another student, Diana Sokeng, graduated from high school when she was 14. She arrived in Philadelphia from Cameroon when she was 16 to start her college career. Now 17, Sokeng graduated with a Business degree and a 4.0 grade point average. With a focus on economics and politics, she is interested in one day working for the United Nations or the World Bank. She has been accepted to Temple University’s Fox School of Business and has applications pending for the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and for The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Police Lt. Lorraine Dusak, a 28-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, graduated with her son, Dennis, an officer with the department for five years. They attended classes, taught by the College, at the Police Academy and earned degrees in Justice with high honors. The lieutenant plans on earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and aspires to teach. Her son intends on returning for his bachelor’s degree. Even though they are professionals in their field, both agree that obtaining a college education will benefit their careers and provide many opportunities for the future.
Dr. Curtis urged the graduates to be bold and dream big. He also quoted advice from the late educator Booker T. Washington. Curtis said Washington “believed that ‘Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.’”