How does a machinist with an equivalency diploma become a star student and research assistant at Drexel University’s Goodwin College of Professional Studies? In Cindy Casey’s case, you follow the path to possibilities that starts at Community College of Philadelphia and persist against all odds.
Casey dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and went to work as a machinist. But by the early 1980s, the city’s manufacturing industry was disappearing and Casey found it difficult to find work. She decided to enroll in a general equivalency diploma (GED®) program that the College operates out of the Community Women’s Education Project (CWEP). The CWEP classes helped her attain her GED and led to more classes, this time at the College, where she was an honors student with a GPA of 3.2 or better.
Her life took another turn, however, when she decided to leave the College before completing her associate’s degree and transfer to La Salle University. It was a decision she would later regret because financial difficulties and family obligations forced her to leave La Salle before completing her baccalaureate. Years later, fearing the credits she had earned at Community College of Philadelphia would expire, she returned to the College, took a class and received an Associate in Arts degree in General Studies with highest honors, or a GPA of 3.8 or better.
For the next 12 years, she worked a variety of jobs before again returning to the College, where in 2010, she earned another degree, an Associate in Applied Science in Computer Forensics, again with highest honors. She then transferred to Drexel University.
At Drexel, Casey has co-authored an award-winning research paper, “Thinking Outside the Box—A Practitioner’s Guide to Xbox Forensics,” which examines the data that can be retrieved from the Nintendo video game console. She also won the 2011 Goodwin School of Technology Essay Contest.
She credits Community College of Philadelphia with providing a strong base for her studies at Drexel. “At Community College of Philadelphia, we were taught to think outside the box and look at different ways to examine digital evidence,” Casey said. She now is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in 2012, finally achieving the goal she has pursued for more than two decades. “I seriously doubt that I would have ever returned to school had Community College of Philadelphia not been there,” she said.
Margaret Stephens, an environmental science and physical geography associate professor at Community College of Philadelphia, kicked off last summer with a two-week stint aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Pisces, where she assisted scientists onboard with reef fish surveys off the coast of Florida.
“I was delighted to participate as a NOAA Teacher at Sea in research in such an important, yet largely unexplored, part of our world—the oceans—and to live and work aboard a research ship with professional scientists,” said Stephens. “I loved sharing the excitement, challenges and practical findings of our scientific field work with others, especially with my students at Community College of Philadelphia.”
Stephens, who was one of 33 professors chosen from 250 applicants, boarded the Pisces in Jacksonville, Fla., and left port on May 14. Over the next 14 days she assisted the scientists as they mapped the sea floor, performed reef fish surveys and took video of the reef fish. Stephens documented the experience in a blog, accessible at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/2011/stephens/.
“NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program immerses teachers in hands-on research experiences that give them clearer insight into our ocean planet, a greater understanding of maritime work and studies, and increased knowledge of environmental literacy,” said Jennifer Hammond, the program’s director. “Participating in real-world research allows teachers to gain experience actually doing science, which makes a significant impact when they bring back their knowledge to their classrooms, teaching students how the oceans affect their lives.”
Now in its 21st year, the program has provided more than 600 teachers the opportunity to gain firsthand experience participating in science at sea.
Nearly 200 people attended the College’s Oct. 13 conference, titled “Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty: Impact on College Students.” The goals of the conference were to: raise awareness about issues that impact a student’s ability to succeed academically; introduce students to organizations that can serve as resources for them and their families; offer a forum challenging participants to serve as change agents and develop strategies for overcoming obstacles; and provide students with leadership and professional development opportunities.
The conference, which was supported by a College Foundation grant, was sponsored by the College’s Women’s Center, the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at the Drexel University School of Public Health, and the Family Self-Sufficiency Program at ACHIEVEability. Conference participants included faculty members, practitioners, students and service providers.
The day was filled with workshops that delved into issues such as students’ experiences with feeding the homeless, education as a key to breaking the cycle of poverty, the city of Philadelphia’s role in homelessness, identifying and alleviating food insecurity among college students, and self-advocacy for housing and welfare services.
Featured speakers included John Rowe, Utility Emergency Services Fund executive director; Trevor Ferrell, Trevor’s Place founder; and the Honorable Jannie L. Blackwell, chair of Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on Education, Housing and Homelessness. Student leader Whitney Lopez, the Phi Theta Kappa Rho Epsilon chapter president, served as emcee. Earl Weeks, Student Government Association president, offered welcoming remarks.