More than 1,600 students, many who triumphed against the odds and successfully balanced work and family life with their studies, will receive certificates and degrees from Delaware County Community College at a graduation ceremony that will be held at The Pavilion at Villanova University, 10:30 a.m., Thursday, May 22.
Shannon Miles, 30, of Upper Darby, will be among the graduates. Miles is an engineering major and will receive an associate of science degree. He plans to transfer to a four-year university and has already been accepted to Drexel University. His career goal is to become an electrical engineer. Not only is he a straight-A student, but he mentors other students for 10 hours a week. He also is president of the College’s Engineering Club; a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society; and he works 36 hours each weekend at a local hospital. He is this year’s recipient of the College’s Outstanding Student Achievement Award and the Academic Achievement Award in Engineering. Before attending the College, Miles graduated from Star Technical Institute, then in Upper Darby, where he studied cardiovascular technology. He later became a certified cardiographic technician and was hired at a local hospital, where he has continued to work for the past eight years. “My colleagues wanted me to pursue a degree in nursing, but I became very fascinated with math and wanted to pursue a math-based degree,” he said. Soft spoken and reserved, Miles credits the College with helping him to break out of his shell and fueling his interest in math.
Heather Welsh, 39, of Springfield, the College’s 2014 Commencement student speaker, will receive an associate of arts degree and plans to transfer to a four-year school to study sociology. Among the schools she is considering is the University of Pennsylvania, which has accepted her for the fall. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree and become a university professor, studying and teaching cultural sociology. Welsh is an All-Pennsylvania Scholar, a title which comes with a full-tuition scholarship for up to two years at one of the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Welsh also was named one of only 50 Coca-Cola Silver scholars from across the nation. Each silver scholar receives a $1,250 scholarship. Welsh is married and has a 10-year-old son. She also is employed as a home health aide. In the 1990s, she dropped out of high school. Later, she earned her GED and enrolled at the College, but she left after failing five courses. “I had a few skeletons in my academic closet,” she said. In 2011, she re-enrolled at the College. In less than a year, she blossomed from academic probation to honor student. As vice president of service for the College’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society, she has led a variety of community service projects.
Gregory Alfaro, 21, of Clifton Heights, came to America from Costa Rica when he was 10 years old, learned English, graduated from Upper Merion High School and will now graduate from the College with an associate of science degree, having majored in mathematics and natural science. An honors student with a 3.62 GPA, Alfaro’s goal is to transfer to a four-year university, major in neuroscience and eventually become a neuroscientist. “I love biology and I am very interested in the human brain,” he said. Alfaro is president of the College’s Latin Flavor Club, a student group which seeks to raise the awareness of Latino culture through events, food, dance and music. As president, he led an effort which raised and then donated $700 to Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and wellness of South Philadelphia’s rapidly growing Latino immigrant population through high-quality health care, innovative educational programs and community building. Alfaro also volunteers at Puentes de Salud.
George Kamanda, 22, of Upper Darby, came to America from Sierra Leone, Africa in 2012. When Kamanda graduates on May 22, he will do so not only for himself, but for his many friends and family both here and in Africa who are pulling for him to succeed. A general studies major who will receive an associate of arts degree, Kamanda’s goal is to use his 3.77 GPA to gain entry into an Ivy League university or a good four-year college. Eventually, he wants to study politics, law, become a lawyer and one day return to Africa to help his homeland, maybe even run for a high political office. “I am someone who has big dreams,” Kamanda said. “I am someone who asks a lot of questions because I am someone who wants to learn more.” Last year, Kamanda founded and became president of the Mutual Africa Club, a student organization that seeks to inform the College community about Africa and to help students from Africa adjust to life in America and at the College. Kamanda also is a student mentor, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the creator of the Educate Salone program, which promotes the importance of education for Africans. “For us to have a better country and a better economy, education should be our first priority,” he said.
Sandra Lewis, 26, of Prospect Park, one of two All-PA students at the College this year, will receive an associate of science degree. As an All-PA scholar, Lewis is eligible for a full-tuition scholarship for up to two years at one of the 14 PASSHE universities. She plans to transfer to a four-year school to attain a bachelor’s in Licensed Social Work, and then maybe pursue a master’s degree toward her goal of becoming a social worker. Ultimately, she hopes to use her love for animals and her academic credentials to conduct a program that utilizes pet therapy to help prison inmates. Lewis opted to enroll in a cyber-charter high school after being bullied in middle school. After graduating from high school, she earned a veterinary assistant certificate online, while working at a veterinary hospital, where she is currently employed and has worked for more than eight years. Overcoming the social anxiety that resulted from the bullying was not easy. The College’s online classes allowed her to ease into college life. Gradually, she worked her way up to not only attending classes full-time, but becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the president of the College’s Human Services Club. As president, Lewis has led many community service projects.