Patricia Donnelly

Arcadia University
Arcadia University

May 16, 2014. Commencement day, the culmination of all my hard work was about to be celebrated with all my family and friends. I processed in with my fellow Arcadia students, my emotions were on overdrive. I had such a sense of pride in my accomplishments. As my name was called, I walked across the stage to shake hands with the president of Arcadia University and receive my long awaited diploma. Graduate! Philadelphia was very much on mind as this would have not been a reality without them in my corner.

My journey started as a youth out of high school at Beaver College. My freshman year did not go as planned. I met a boy and got pregnant. I attended Community College part time for as long as I could. Family obligations and full time employment derailed those dreams for 28 years.

My eldest child graduated from Temple University, I was beaming with pride at his accomplishments. My dream of academic fulfillment was very present that day, but how could this be done? I needed to break down the barriers that were preventing this from happening. It came in 2009 when I attended an informational meeting at my younger children’s school. Neumann University had sent representatives to talk to adults who wished to return to college. I heard for the first time about online learning and accelerated programs that could actually work in my hectic life. Finances still proved to be the challenge.

It was also during this meeting that I heard about Graduate! Philadelphia and the help they had provided other adult learners in transitioning them back to college. I was intrigued and made an appointment. The staff was amazing in helping me find the resources that were available. They informed me of a scholarship called My Degree Now, being offered by Community College. I qualified by fitting all criteria needed. I was in good standing to complete my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts/ Behavioral Health concentration. The excuse of affordability was gone, but could I be a successful learner? I took a leap of faith and in 2009 I received my diploma graduating with distinguished honors. I was amazed that I was able to juggle all aspects of my hectic life.

Arcadia University was to be the next phase of my journey. The classes and professors were amazing in both my online classes as well as the traditional classroom setting. My Global Learning experience semester took me to our local prison. The course was called Inside/Out and half my class were inmates. What they said opened my eyes to a group of individuals that society continually punishes even after release. The class made a huge impact in my life, and as a career choice I would love to work with re-integration programs that work with to ex-offenders. Social policy needs to be challenged and revised and I would love to be a part of this change. I now have so many possibilities now that I have my Bachelor’s Degree. Maybe graduate school for my Master’s in Social Work? One thing I know is that Graduate! Philadelphia will be there to guide me.

I believe that I was meant to complete my academic journey at this stage of my life. It has been a faith journey, my miracle thanks to Graduate! Philadelphia. I know that they will continue serving Philadelphians like me for many decades to come. Please remember an educated population makes for a more vibrant and successful Philadelphia.