How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

How an Overbrook High grad went from jail time to a career in engineering

Paul Johnson knows that it’s hard for people from the outside looking in to understand his story and his struggles. His life, he said, was never straightforward. Johnson, 26, attended and graduated from Overbrook high school and took a few college courses at the Community College of Philadelphia before dropping out. He soon took a path that led him to spending time in and out of jail before being sentenced to six months for missing court dates due to driving under the influence. Once released, he had trouble securing a job. No one really wanted to take the chance of hiring someone with a record, and he received a lot of rejections from employers after handing in his applications. Then his probation officer connected him to the PowerCorps program through the Philadelphia Water Department, where Johnson learned about the history and use of Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and was able to do work that included basic maintenance on drains, landscape and infrastructure work. He...
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The overwhelming joy of graduation day

The overwhelming joy of graduation day

Each morning and each night I look at my journalism degree from Temple University, I remember the challenges I overcame to get it, including the fear of never receiving it at all. The overwhelming euphoria I felt when it finally arrived in the mail is something I still carry to this day. It can never really be replicated or taken away. In the beginning, I never saw myself attending college. I never saw it as the important factor it would become in my life. I grew up in and still live in North Philadelphia. A college graduate is something not often seen coming from a low income household or an impoverished neighborhood. I remember walking through my neighborhood on graduation day, a cool spring day, twiddling my fingers as my gown blew in the breeze. This would actually be my second degree. The first came from the Community College of Philadelphia just a few years prior. Though I was older, and some things...
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A one-stop resource fair for Latinos at CCP

A one-stop resource fair for Latinos at CCP

Roxanna Encarnación, a Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) came to the U.S. in her early teens and went straight to CCP to obtain her education. An alumni of the 2010 class, Encarnación now works as a loan servicer at Finanta in Philadelphia. “It was really eye opening,” Encarnación said of her time attending classes for the first time at the Philadelphia college. “I had to make a foundation here, learn a new language and learn a new culture. It’s the most affordable school and you take your education anywhere that you want, it’s not like you can get stuck.” Encarnación is part of a larger population of students who once believed the thought of attending college to be out of reach. There are many hurdles and challenges for those who might not have the funds for tuition or have come to the U.S. undocumented. According to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Roadmap for Growth report, the city’s population in 2013 was 44 percent African-American; 13 percent Hispanic or...
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Philly Grad Aims For New Chapter In Life

Philly Grad Aims For New Chapter In Life

It happened earlier this month when Shawn Jorden, 25, was handed his degrees in Psychology and Liberal Arts from the Community College of Philadelphia, a goal that he had initially thought was out of reach. Jorden attended Indiana University before attending CCP but because of the university's tuition and cost of living, he was forced to return to Philadelphia. At times he found himself homeless while working to complete his degree, relying on the kindness of friends and family for a place to live and work. "I really wasn't feeling it because I was at a four-year university and coming to a two-year institution, I was a little depressed about that," Jorden said. "So I did some research and decided that I needed some help but I wasn't sure what kind of help I needed." Jorden connected with The Center for Male Engagement at CCP and met Kevin Convington, who would later become his mentor as well as Derrick Perkins, the director of the...
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