PHILADELPHIA--(Peirce College graduates ascend the steps of The Kimmel Center stage on June 14 to receive their diplomas, you realize this is not the usual commencement ceremony.)--As
“I wanted to ensure my children understand the importance of going to college”
A single father of three. Three generations of one family. The oldest of eight siblings who sees himself as a role model for his family. Plus many others, some in their fifties and sixties, who had all but given up on their dreams of attaining a college degree.
Their stories reflect struggles, compromises, dedication and most of all a determination to succeed. For many, it is a second chance, for others, the desire to move ahead in their careers. These are working adults, non-traditional students—who make up the majority of students at Peirce—each balancing personal, professional and education challenges on a daily basis.
Nationally, more than half of non-traditional students who start degree programs never finish them. Locally, there are more than 80,000 Philadelphians who began college degree programs and never completed them.
Of the 447 graduates in the Peirce Class of 2010, 72 percent are over thirty and are also residents of the greater Philadelphia area.
One of the heartwarming stories is that of three family members, who will graduate together during the College’s 145th Commencement. The graduates represent three generations of the same Philadelphia family: Gwendolyn McNuckles, 56, her daughter Dionne Garrison, 35, and granddaughter Denise Garrison, 20. Denise also has the distinction of being the youngest member of the graduating class.
“We believe this is the first time in our 145-year history that we have had three generations of the same family graduating on the same day,” said Peirce President and Chief Executive Officer James J. Mergiotti. “We hear from many of our students that Peirce is like a close-knit family. Individual attention at Peirce is common practice—our students are more than just names.”
Gwendolyn McNuckles, the matriarch of the three family members, is a magna cum laude graduate and has earned a Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in Management. Although her studies are over, McNuckles, who won the Outstanding Business Administration Student Award, has one more official role at Peirce. Her skills as an official toastmaster will be on display when she introduces U.S. State Representative Chaka Fattah of the Second Congressional District as the keynote speaker.
When she walks up the steps at The Kimmel Center, McNuckles, from Germantown, will realize a lifelong goal. "My dream, since I was young, was to obtain my degree," she said. "I was a first-year student for 35 years and had given up that I would ever achieve my degree." When her parents come to the graduation from Waco, Texas, four generations of one family will be in attendance.
“Their determination to succeed is an excellent testimonial to why you should never give up pursuing a degree and is representative of the challenges faced by many of Peirce’s students and their ultimate individual successes,” Mergiotti said.
“I enjoy being in the presence of high achievers, people who beat the odds and overcome obstacles to find success,” Mergiotti said. “Our ‘non-traditional’ students are young at heart but older in age than typical college students. They carry significant personal and professional responsibilities.”
Keynote speaker Congressman Fattah, who has a long record of supporting education initiatives, is completing his 16th year in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before his election to the United States Congress in 1994, he served six years as a Representative in the State House, followed by six years as a State Senator.
“Recently, I came upon a quote by an anonymous author that I feel is fitting for the Class of 2010,” Mergiotti said. “‘Some people dream of success, while others wake up and work hard at it.’ We are proud of each and every one of our graduates who have successfully completed their individual journeys.”
Graduates such as Holly Frey, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who will represent all graduating students as the 2010 Student Commencement Speaker. Frey is graduating summa cum laude and is receiving the Alumni Association Raymond L. Palzer '52 Academic Leadership Award, as a member of the College’s Paralegal Studies program. Like many Peirce students, Frey put her own academic and career goals on hold to focus on the needs of her family. As she was preparing her daughter for college, she decided the time was right to continue the quest for her own degree.
When Michael Scardecchio of Broomall, Delaware County, receives his Bachelor of Science, Business Administration degree with magna cum laude distinction, his family will be in attendance. He considered not getting a degree earlier in his life as a failure. “It was something I wanted to correct,” he said. “I now have a new job after being out of work for many months—I would like to think Peirce played a big part in preparing me for the challenge of a job search in today’s economy. Having my family in the audience at graduation will be special.”
“I wanted to ensure my children understand the importance of going to college,” said graduate Tammy Mazzatenta, of Pennsauken, New Jersey. “I did not want to ask anything of them that I was not able to accomplish myself. It was important to me to lead by example.” Tammy is this year’s Outstanding Paralegal Studies Student Award recipient at Peirce, graduating with a Bachelor of Science, Paralegal Studies degree, summa cum laude.
Fred Santana of Olney is graduating with a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, Concentration in Management degree, magna cum laude. A few years ago, he took a personal inventory of his life. “I wondered if I would ever live up to my full potential,” he said. He decided to turn his life around. “I am the oldest of eight children and wanted to be a great role model for my family and others,” Santana said.
Of the 447 graduates, 262 studied online, an important, flexible study method for many students who are working adults. The Peirce Class of 2010 has 279 bachelor’s degrees, 149 associate degrees, and 19 certificates. By study area, 279 are Business Administration, 94 Paralegal Studies, 73 Information Technology, and one General Studies.
Peirce students and graduates selected a new closing song for Commencement: “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. “It is a new era. Under the leadership of President Mergiotti, a lot of changes have been made to make our students’ experiences more impactful,” said Patricia A. Rucker, Ed.D., Senior Vice President, Academic Advancement and Provost at Peirce. “Through the selection of the song, we wanted to reflect how perseverance and hope can contribute to success. So many students are balancing family, professional and education challenges, just trying to make it.”
Another feature of this year’s graduation is the selection of a student who will lead in the singing of the national anthem. Contestants demonstrated their talents in a special Peirce Idol contest. The winner is Raymond DeShields of Philadelphia. He gave an inspired performance, which can be viewed on the Peirce College YouTube channel.
Peirce College is an active participant in Mayor Nutter’s new citywide initiative to increase the number of Philadelphians going to college. “Helping to eliminate obstacles for potential college students is critical and is an area where Peirce College places a significant amount of emphasis,” Mergiotti said. “It is important to enhance education opportunities for as many Philadelphians as possible.”
About Peirce College
Peirce College offers bachelor’s and associate degree programs in Business Administration, Information Technology and Paralegal Studies. Peirce College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104 (phone: 267-284-5000). The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs accredits the College's business program and the Paralegal Studies program is approved by the American Bar Association.
For more information about Peirce College, call 888.GO.PEIRCE, or visit www.peirce.edu.
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