By Glory Wells
On June 29, hundreds of friends and family proudly came together at the Dell Music Center to celebrate the first Philadelphia Citywide Graduation Ceremony since 2019, honoring graduates of 2020, 2021 and 2022 for completing their high school equivalency certificates.
As countless others face difficulties in continuing their education, the Citywide Graduation Ceremony symbolizes that it is never too late to learn. One of two adult learners delivering inspirational remarks during the ceremony expressed the difficulties she faced to persevere.
“It has been a dream of mine to receive my high school diploma, but life circumstances prevented that,” Northeast Learning Center Graduate Antoinette Reynolds told the audience.
The ceremony honored nearly 200 adult learners, some of whom faced the same barriers in pursuing this educational milestone.
The evening opened with a rousing welcome from Dr. Christine Piven, Executive Director of the Office of Children and Families (OCF) Next Level Learning program. Graduates also heard from Mayor Jim Kenney, who congratulated them on completing their certifications amid the pandemic and other obstacles.
“Despite all those many challenges, you stand here today as success stories,” said the Mayor. “And I am so pleased to see how many of your family and friends have joined you here to be part of this celebration. I am sure they are as proud of you as I am. Philadelphia is proud of you.”
The graduates were congratulated by the special guest speaker, WDAS-FM radio host Patty Jackson, who delivered a commencement address.
“I am so very proud of the nearly 200 hundred Philadelphians whose success we honor today,” Jackson (left) said. “They have overcome personal challenges and the difficulties posed by the pandemic to pursue their dreams. By doing so, they embody the very best of Philadelphia. It was a tremendous honor to be part of this important and moving celebration.”
Organizations whose graduates were honored were JEVS Human Services, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Temple’s Workforce Education and Lifelong Learning Program (Temple WELL), Northeast Learning Center, Penn Foster, The Garces Foundation, Beyond Literacy, and the Aquinas Community Center.
David Logan (right), a graduate of Beyond Literacy’s program, also took to the podium to share his story with the crowd. The graduate spoke with gratitude and sincerity as he acknowledged his significant milestones and offered encouraging words that helped the audience to connect with his message.
“The challenges we face everyday are guaranteed; the easiest and most unexpected thing we can do for ourselves is fight back with an ambitious goal and a dream,” he said.
Logan plans to continue his ambitious goal by furthering his education in mechanical engineering.
The joyous ceremony concluded with each graduate receiving a celebratory certificate from the City. OCF Deputy Mayor Vanessa Garrett Harley (left, with a graduate) and representatives from each learning organization were given the honor of presenting the certifications.
As graduates walked across the stage, some danced and others cried, but the enthusiasm and joy in each of their eyes was seen and shared with the audience.
After three years without celebration, this year’s Citywide Graduation succeeded as a much needed appreciation of adult learners, and as inspiration for countless others to fervently pursue their dreams.