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Nearly 1,500 Students Graduate from Delaware County Community College
(Delaware and Chester Counties, PA • May 19, 2022)—Nearly 1,500 students graduated from Delaware County Community College on Thursday, May 19 with associate degrees and/or certificates. For the first time in its more than 50-year history, the College held two separate Commencement ceremonies. The first ceremony was for graduates of the Allied Health & Nursing, STEM, and Workforce & Economic Development divisions. The second ceremony was for graduates of the Business, Computing & Social Science, and Communications, Arts & Humanities divisions. Both ceremonies were held at West Chester University’s Hollinger Field House.
Commencement speakers applauded the graduates for persevering in spite of the global pandemic, which caused major economic, health and social upheaval. “Class of 2022 – you not only survived but flourished amid a worldwide pandemic and extremely difficult circumstances. You were determined to finish what you had started. Here today, as we mark your triumph, may it also be the successful launch of your career,” said Delaware County Community College President Dr. L. Joy Gates Black.
“We have formed friendships through our computer screens. We have sought instructional assistance through online messaging, even as far as teaching ourselves course materials. And most importantly, we have learned the power of Zoom,” said Quetxalit Escalante, the student Commencement speaker.
A paralegal studies major who plans to attend West Chester University and become a lawyer, Escalante of Thorndale was one of five students named to this year’s All-Pennsylvania (All-PA) Academic Team by the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society of two-year colleges and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. The All-PA recognition comes with free tuition for two years to one of the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities. While at the College, Escalante, who also was named a 2022 Coca-Cola Academic Team Silver Scholar which comes with a $1,250 scholarship from The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, was a student success ambassador, mentor, president of the LatinX Student Association and co-executive producer of the student-run New Media Lab.
During her Commencement remarks, Escalante gave special recognition to the College-trained first responders—nurses, emergency medical technicians, police—for their selfless bravery during the pandemic. “Your courage and sacrifice to keep our community safe is greatly appreciated and recognized,” said Escalante. Also, as a first-generation college graduate, Escalante applauded her fellow first-generation classmates for “breaking the boundary of impossibility and paving a way for not only yourselves, but for current and future generations.”
In a poignant moment, Escalante also recognized the late Fernando Benavidez, a Delaware County Community College Communication professor who was killed in an automobile accident last year. A fellow native of Mexico, Dr. Benavidez helped Escalante matriculate through Delaware County Community College. “Last and foremost, I thank a dear professor of mine, Fernando Benavidez, who unfortunately passed away last summer. Although you are not here, I know in my heart you are applauding us all for making it. Thank you for being the first person at the College who believed in me not only as a great student but as a leader as well. Nunca de olvidaré. I will never forget you,” said Escalante.
Later in the ceremony, 2022 Alumni Professional Achievement Award recipient and Commencement alumni speaker Scott Sauer ‘03, who is SEPTA’s chief operating officer, urged the graduates to keep moving forward in their pursuit of excellence. Sauer told of how nearly 32 years ago, after graduating from high school at the age of 19, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to work for SEPTA. “I’m very fond of telling people that SEPTA has been feeding me since the day I opened my eyes for the first time. My father had spent 30 years as a SEPTA operator and cashier. He was thrilled to see me continue in his footsteps as a SEPTA trolley operator at 19 years old,” said Sauer, who later said the turning point in his career was when he enrolled at the College after being out of school for a decade.
“I had forgotten how to study; how to budget time for homework; how to use the library. Delaware County Community College taught me all those things. I started to get excited about learning again,” said Sauer, who in 2003 earned a Business Administration, Associate in Science degree. Over the next five years, while progressing in his career and raising a family with his wife Robyn, a registered nurse, Sauer would earn a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and a master’s degree in Environmental Protection and Safety Management from Saint Joseph’s University. “I definitely did it the hard way,” said Sauer.
Reflecting on his life and career, Sauer urged the graduates to not get discouraged and keep moving forward. “Life is a journey full of twists and turns. Keep moving forward,” said Sauer. “Every step provides an opportunity for success, an opportunity to learn, or an opportunity to change. The important thing is to keep going.”
Photo Caption: 2022 Delaware County Community College graduate and Commencement student speaker Quetxalit Escalante of Thorndale, President Dr. L. Joy Gates Black, and 2022 Alumni Professional Achievement Award recipient Scott Sauer ‘03, SEPTA’s chief operating officer.