Watch livestream from Oct. 27th HERE!


Through the levers of educational attainment and workforce preparation, Graduate! Philadelphia aims to help Adult Comebackers achieve greater social mobility and financial security.  Celebrate 15 years with us by making a donation to support our work and join us for our virtual Anniversary Celebration and Ed Talks event on October 27th.

To donate and to RSVP for the October 27th Event: Network for Good

Celebrating 15 years of Graduate! Philadelphia: Advancing Learning Pathways and Economic Opportunity

Graduate! Philadelphia has a long track record of achievement and scalable impact. Today, more than ever, we believe that higher education requires strong partnerships and a willingness to adapt to the future of work and the digital economy.

With partners across business, nonprofit, and government, this virtual event will celebrate the persistence and resilience of adult learners and front-line workers.  As a city and region, we will tip our collective hats to the thousands of individuals who work the front lines of our economy, take care of a family, pursue an academic/workforce credential, and establish greater financial security. You can join us by supporting Graduate! Philadelphia today!

ED Talks: A Showcase of Learning and Innovation in the Era of COVID-19

Join us as we celebrate our founding, our roots, and our future aspirations. In our ED Talks segment, you will hear directly from Graduate! Philadelphia and local college presidents about how higher education and workforce development is a driving force behind our region’s economic, health, and social recovery.

How do we ensure advancement in career pathways, promote positive health outcomes, and help adults prepare for the future? On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, from 2:30PM – 5:30PM we will take a closer look at how higher education is supporting these areas. During this virtual event we will reflect on Graduate! Philadelphia’s work from the past 15 years and look ahead to the path of opportunity we are continuing to build for our community during this year’s ED Talks: A Showcase of Learning and Innovation in the Era of COVID-19. You can RSVP here.

Comebacker Spotlight

Our mission is to increase the number of adults completing college in the Greater Philadelphia region, by engaging business, higher education, government, organized labor, workforce and economic development, community building organizations, social service providers, and college graduates to align existing resources, remove barriers, and create new pathways for adults to complete a college degree.

See our first Comebacker Spotlight: Victoria Peurifoy here!

Featured ED Talk Speakers

Dr. Mary Ellen Caro

Dr. Mary Ellen Caro

President & CEO of Peirce College

Dr. Mary Ellen Caro is the first woman to serve as president and chief executive officer of Peirce College and has served in this role since April 16, 2018. She is an experienced higher education leader and business executive with extensive knowledge and expertise in serving the unique needs of adults, increasing access to higher education, workforce development, and building cross sector partnerships aligned with the strategic needs of employers.

Read More

Prior to joining Peirce, Dr. Caro served in senior executive roles during her 14-year service at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J., where she was responsible for a wide range of functions, including student affairs; strategic corporate and military partnerships; marketing; and enrollment management. Before entering the higher education sector, Dr. Caro built an impressive 25-year career at AT&T, where she progressed through many executive positions, culminating in several vice president and officer positions managing a global P&L portfolio.

She completed her doctorate in Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania; a Master of Science in Management from Stanford University, where she was an AT&T Sloan Fellow; a Master of Science in Applied Statistics from Rutgers University; and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Saint Elizabeth, where she majored in Mathematics and Sociology.

Dr. Generals

Donald Guy Generals, Ed.D.

Dr. Donald Guy Generals became the sixth President of Community College of Philadelphia on July 1, 2014. As the chief executive officer, he guides Philadelphia’s only public institution of higher learning, which serves more than 35,000 credit and non-credit students from diverse social, cultural and educational backgrounds.

Read More

Previously, Dr. Generals served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, New Jersey from 2008 to 2014. Before joining Mercer’s cabinet, he held positions as Provost at the Katharine Gibbs Schools in New York City; Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at SUNY Rockland Community College in Suffern, N.Y., and Dean of Student and Cultural Affairs at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, N.J. Dr. Generals has twenty years of teaching experience.

Dr. Generals serves on numerous boards in Philadelphia including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Philadelphia Works, Campus Philly, the Urban Affairs Coalition, the Free Library of Philadelphia, Friends Select School, and the Mayor’s Reconciliation Steering Committee. He served on numerous professional organizations, including the New Jersey Academic Affairs Affinity Group (chair); the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges (Board member since 2010); the College Board, Middle States Regional Council; and the Paterson Board of Education (Commissioner). Dr. Generals writes and speaks on a range of educational issues. His book, Booker T. Washington, The Architect of Progressive Education, was published in 2013.

Dr. Generals earned his Ed.D. in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at Rutgers University after earning both his M.A. in Urban Education/Community Service and his B.A. in Political Science at William Paterson College. Additionally, he’s earned certificates in administrative leadership and educational management at Cornell and Harvard Universities.

John Colborn Preferred Headshot

John Colborn

Chief Operating Officer of JEVS Human Services Philadelphia

John Colborn is Chief Operating Officer of JEVS Human Services, a multi-faceted nonprofit organization serving the greater Philadelphia region. In this role, he oversees the organization’s efforts to enhance the dignity, independence, and life opportunities for over 30,000 young people and adults.

Read More

Operating with an annual budget of over $100 million, JEVS has over 2,000 employees and 40 successful programs providing skills development, job readiness and career services, vocational rehabilitation, recovery services, adult day and residential services, and in-home personal assistance.

Prior to joining JEVS, Colborn has amassed over 30 years of experience with community-based and national nonprofits, including the Aspen institute, Ford Foundation, and Philadelphia-based Reinvestment Fund.

He maintains leadership roles with a range of national boards of directors including the Foundation Center, the Network of Jewish Human Services Agencies, and the Graduate! Network.

Colborn holds a BA from Oberlin College and a Master’s of Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Screen Shot 2020-09-02 at 3.17.32 PM

Judge Renée Cardwell Hughes

Renée Cardwell Hughes is a highly experienced executive. She focuses on strategy, leadership development and change management. She is the President & CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. dba Philadelphia OIC, a workforce development nonprofit corporation that impacts 1,500 individuals annually. She manages a staff of 41 and oversees business development for adult training programs, programming and support services for returning citizens and an alternative public high school for over-aged and under-credited students.


Read More

Before joining Philadelphia OIC, she served as CEO of The Hughes Group where she led a team of business advisors who helped employees, management and Boards internalize, own and execute their Mission and Values by revitalizing their corporate culture.

Prior to founding the Hughes Group, she was the CEO of the fourth largest market in the American Red Cross (ARC) for more than six years. As CEO of The ARC of Eastern Pennsylvania, she was responsible for a region which services 6.2 million Pennsylvanians between the New York State and State of Delaware borders. Renée was responsible for the region’s strategic vision, annual operating plan and budget, donor funding program, team leadership, governance and partnerships with local, state and federal government and business alliances. The American Red Cross is a $3billion global not-for-profit humanitarian and disaster relief agency.

Renée led a team of 85 full time and 45 part-time staff along with more than 4,000 volunteers who plan and execute local, regional and national disaster relief, safety education programs, and support members of the Armed Forces. Additionally, she was responsible for the Region’s highly regulated blood supply. Her team responded to 7-10 fires daily in partnership with regional Fire Departments and in
partnership with federal, state and local officials handled the emergency needs arising from large-scale disasters.

As a change manager, Renée successfully spearheaded the merger of 17 counties to condense operations and the integration of the Blood/Biomedical and Humanitarian Services divisions to deliver enhanced service offerings and more efficient funds deployment. Her team founded and operated the only Red Cross House in the nation, a unique facility which provides care and recovery for over 3000 people annually, who have been displaced by fire, floods or other disasters.

Renée was a trial judge for more than 15 years before joining the American Red Cross, where she handled both complex civil and criminal cases. She specialized in homicides; handling some of Philadelphias most notorious cases. She founded the City’s mental health court and co-authored a book on witness intimidation. Renee began her career as a successful corporate attorney.

Renée received her legal degree from Georgetown University Law Center and her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. She has received numerous awards for her leadership, courage, and community involvement. She was inducted into the International Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management 2013 Hall of Fame. She was recognized in 2013 and in 2017 by the Philadelphia
Business Journal as a Minority Business Leader; in 2014 Philadelphia Style Magazine named her one of the City’s Power Women, and in 2016 Renée was recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal as a Woman of Distinction. Renée was selected as the Pearl S. Buck International 2018 Woman of Influence.
Renée is a Qualified Financial Expert. She serves on the board of The Haverford Trust Company and The Independence Health Group Public Policy and External Affairs Advisory Board.

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab

Professor of Sociology & Medicine at Temple University, and Founding Director of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in Philadelphia

Sara Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Sociology & Medicine at Temple University, and Founding Director of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in Philadelphia. She is also the Chief Strategy Officer for Emergency Aid at Edquity, a student financial success and emergency aid company, and founded Believe in Students, a nonprofit distributing emergency aid.


Read More

Sara is best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher education, having led the five largest national studies on the subject, and for her work on making public higher education free. She is the recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Award, the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award, and the Carnegie Fellowship. In 2016 POLITICO magazine named her one of the top 50 people shaping American politics and she is ranked 7th in the nation among education scholars according to Education Week. Her latest book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, won the 2018 Grawemeyer Award, and was featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls Sara “a defender of impoverished students and a scholar of their struggles,” an accurate description of her life’s work.

Message from our Executive Director

Malik Brown

Malik Brown

Executive Director, Graduate! Philadelphia

“In a hyper accelerated digital environment, higher education must play a central role in building automation resiliency and occupational mobility for those in our society who are most vulnerable to being left behind.

We must design and reimagine higher education to not only be a space for learning and academic achievement but also an instrument to confront the most stubborn and pressing issues of our time – e.g., health disparities, economic mobility, digital literacy.”

Host Committee


“I believe education shouldn’t be a luxury good. It should be accessibility to — and expand the horizons of opportunity for – all who seek it.”

“As we navigate the pandemic, Graduate! Philadelphia can be the answer for people who lost their place in the workforce.”

“A college degree opens up so many other career possibilities. Please finish what you started!”

“Adult learners have to balance work, life, children, a rigorous academic curriculum, not to mention multiple pandemics that creates more stress and complexity. It is incumbent that we arm these adults with tools that help to manage their mental health, anxiety and stress through meditation and mindfulness.”

“Investing in workforce development strategies that focus on educational attainment ensures economic mobility for individuals and financial stability for families both of which are critical to the vitality of our region”

“In this time of economic uncertainty and social unrest, it is critical to support the educational growth of adults in our region. Through Graduate! Philadelphia’s work, comebackers are offered new career pathways, helping to ensure they have better opportunities to attain a family sustaining wage”

“The long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have crippled our nation and will be felt for years to come. As an At-Large member of City Council, mitigating those effects, as much as possible for our citizens, is my top priority. This work begins by equipping our most underserved communities with the critical education and workforce development that will improve their quality of life and enhance our City.”

“Graduate! Philadelphia plays a unique role in our region by ensuring that adults who work on the front lines of our economy have the education and skills to contribute more broadly to their workplaces and communities”

“Talent development is among the most fundamental challenges Philadelphia faces if it is going to bend the poverty curve downward. Graduate’s laser-like focus on the come-backers is a critical element in our talent development strategy.”

“My grandfather always said, “Education is power- it’s the one thing no one can take from you!” During these uncertain times philanthropy must deepen its partnerships with government, nonprofits, businesses, communities and the people we serve to keep our economy strong. A workforce unprepared to deal with the long-term impacts of COVID-19 is not an option. There are too many talented people in our communities who need access to real opportunities. Investing in adult post-secondary education organizations like Graduate Philadelphia is key if we want to remain competitive as a region for decades to come.”

“Increasing attainment rates of post secondary credentials is socially and economically empowering and better positions our region for continued growth and prosperity.”

“There is a clear connection between educational attainment and workforce development to an individual’s health and well-being. Charting a stable and positive course for individuals and their families can elevate and amplify positive health outcomes for an entire community.”

“Many small businesses and entrepreneurs across Philadelphia have been devastated by the COVID health and economic crisis. Higher education and workforce providers will play a critical role in helping our entrepreneurs retool to take part in our region’s economic recovery.”

“Graduate! Philadelphia’s work in education and workforce preparation is advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the region, and helping to close the wealth gap.”



To donate and to RSVP for the October 27th Event: Network for Good

Watch stream from Oct 27th HERE!