May 18, 2018
Commission Update

Sharing how PA's community colleges are responsive to the needs of the local communities they serve.

News from Pennsylvania's community colleges

Mataya Costello, a Riverside High School student in Beaver County, has a passion for baking. She thought: Wouldn't it be amazing to have a job she loves? Her guidance counselor recommended the RIV-ELL Entrepreneurship Program.

The program, a partnership between  Butler County Community College Community College of Beaver County , Ellwood City Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln and Riverside high schools, aims to bring an alternative learning platform to students who will be challenged to perform academically at the collegiate level while earning college credit.

RIV-ELL links businesses, schools, colleges, service clubs and foundations in Ellwood City together to mentor students and blossom their ideas into feasible business plans. The program is the first of its kind in the area and is designed to blend classroom learning with real-world experience.

BC3 and  CCBC faculty will instruct high school seniors in financial literacy, psychology, entrepreneurship, marketing, public speaking and business plan development Monday through Thursday afternoons during the school year. On Friday afternoons, students will have the chance to network with, and gain insight from, successful Ellwood City area business leaders.

More than 1,500 students earned associate degrees and certificates from  Delaware County Community College this month and the 2018 graduation ceremony included some inspiring stories of perseverance and determination.

The commencement speaker, Habibah Sulayman Smith of Drexel Hill, was awarded the Alumni Professional Achievement Award. Nearly 20 years ago, Smith -- then a 26-year-old single mother -- was struggling not to become homeless for a second time. She enrolled at  DCCC for a high-quality education and a better life for her children. Habibah is now a project specialist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Runaway and Homeless Youth Program.

Graduate Britney Spinelli of Marcus Hook graduated with an Applied Science degree in Advanced Technology and a certificate in Process Control Technology. Britney, who was raised minutes from the former Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook, said she prides herself in being able to do tasks traditionally done by men. "When I was 13, I joined the Marcus Hook Fire Department Cadet Program," Britney said. "I was the only female in the program. Whenever there was a question of whether I was capable of doing what the guys could do, I prevailed."

Also among the grads was Upper Darby resident Sourou Mariette Carolle Zounon, an All-PA Academic Transfer Team Scholar. Sourou is a mother of two who volunteers as a peer mentor and helped beautify a community garden next to the Darby Borough Free Library while interning for the Darby Borough Community Development Corporation. She aims to become a certified public accountant.

Registered nursing graduates at  Butler County Community College had a 96 percent success rate this year on the National Council Licensure Examination, exceeding the state average of 84 percent.

They were among the 578 graduates that marked the second largest  BC3 graduating class of the century, and included its most senior graduate ever (80-year-old Don Thomas), a newlywed couple, 128 members of an international academic honor society and 28 student veterans.

Nursing graduate Melanie Coyle has already accepted a job offer as a critical medical care unit nurse in Pittsburgh. " BC3 has a great pass rate," she said. "I think employers know that."

One RN grad, U.S. Air Force Reserve Tech Sgt. Jodi Grazier of New Castle, will be deployed this summer. For five consecutive years,
BC3 has been recognized as a 'Military Friendly' institution by Victory Media.

Graduate William "Don" Thomas, an 80-year-old veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was recognized in a nationally televised speech from the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3, honored Don as the college's most senior graduate of all time. Don earned an associate of arts degree in history.
Student transfer success by the numbers

National higher education news roundup