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More than 1,500 Students Earn Associate Degrees and Certificates as Commencement Speakers Urge Them to Continue Overcoming Obstacles
(Delaware and Chester Counties, PA • May 17, 2021)—Delaware County Community College celebrated its 2021 graduating class with a virtual commencement ceremony on May 17, 2021 honoring more than 1,500 students who, undaunted by the challenges of learning remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, earned their associate degrees and certificates.
The College will also provide in-person opportunities this week for graduates to walk across a stage and take photos while adhering to federal CDC and state safety protocols. The in-person events started today with a drive-through Nursing pinning ceremony in which Nursing graduates can drive up and receive lapel pins—a time-honored tradition of recognizing Nursing students’ achievements.
“Class of 2021 don’t ever allow setbacks or hurdles to overwhelm you. When difficulties arise, remember the words of movie star Audrey Hepburn: ‘Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible!’,” said Jasmine Rao, the Class of 2021 student speaker, during the virtual commencement ceremony.
Rao, a graduate of Upper Darby High School Cyber Academy who, while in high school, took college credit courses at the College, shared how her father unexpectedly left the family, forcing her, her mother and sister to work full- and part-time jobs to cover household expenses, while each continued to attend college. In spite of family upheaval, the pandemic and the shift to online instruction, Rao said, the College helped her navigate the difficult transition by enabling her and other students “to connect over shared classes, similar majors, similar home situations, or by finding ways to help students organize and hold virtual social events.”
“Working with the Student Government Association and a few co-mentors, and with the help of Dr. Mickens (director of Student Outreach and Support), we safely enhanced student life by promoting and creating Zoom-hosted events for students. Though the transition from in-person learning to online classes was a sudden and difficult change, it inspired us to make the best of a difficult situation,” said Rao, who also became a student ambassador to help fellow students.
In addition, Rao was one of only 23 students nationwide selected to participate in the inaugural “#RealCollege Student Leadership Advisory Council,” an ongoing effort by Temple University’s The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice that seeks to identify and increase the availability of supports for college students’ basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and computer broadband access. Rao majored in Computer Science at the College and plans to transfer to Temple University or Drexel University to earn a bachelor’s in Computer Science and master’s degrees in both Computer Science and in Business Administration.
Picking up on the theme of overcoming obstacles, 2014 alumnus George Shadrack Kamanda, this year’s Wong Moss Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, urged the graduates to let nothing stand in the way of pursuing their dreams. “My advice to you as graduates is never to stop following your dreams or believing in yourself. Break new barriers, ignore the naysayers and do not take your beginnings for granted. You will have tough days, but don’t give up,” said Kamanda of Upper Darby.
In introducing Kamanda, Dr. L. Joy Gates Black, president of Delaware County Community College, said Kamanda’s mission in life is to help others, particularly his fellow Sierra Leoneans. “Having witnessed inhumane violence while growing up in his war-torn country, George decided he would be a change agent and utilize education to make positive change a reality,” said Dr. Gates Black.
After immigrating to the United States from his beloved Sierra Leone, Africa, to be with his mother, who urged him to attend Delaware County Community College, Kamanda excelled academically and civically at the College as an orientation leader, peer mentor, tutor and founder of the Mutual Africa Club. After earning an Associate in Arts degree, he earned a bachelor’s in Political Science from Saint Joseph’s University and a certificate in Global Human Rights from the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School. This year, he expects to receive a master’s degree in Diplomatic Studies from Oxford University in England, where he is editor of a student-run, international academic journal. Next year, he expects to receive his Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University, which awarded him a fellowship that will this year have him working with Human Rights Watch in New York City.
Kamanda once had an internship at the European Parliament, where he read a poem that he wrote about Sierra Leone. In 2018, he presented at the United Nations on the role of women and youth in sustainable development in Africa. He currently directs The Necessity Firm, an organization he founded that advocates for civic education and youth involvement in Sierra Leone. Last year, he published his third book titled, “Citizenship Remained: The Case for a Responsible Whole Citizenry in Sierra Leone.”
“The world awaits you, Class of 2021! To be presented with this Wong Moss award is a truly humbling honor, and I am deeply touched. Thank you, and God bless,” said Kamanda to the graduates.
Photo: (Left) Class of 2021 student speaker Jasmine Rao of Upper Darby and 2014 Delaware County Community College alumnus George Shadrack Kamanda, recipient of the College’s 2021 Wong Moss Outstanding Alumni Award