Gateway to graduation

By Diane VanDyke
Twenty-one students received their high school diplomas through MCCC's Gateway to College program. Photos by Linda Johnson

Twenty-one students received their high school diplomas through MCCC's Gateway to College program. Photos by Linda Johnson

Families and friends recently gathered in Montgomery County Community College’s Parkhouse Hall atrium in Blue Bell to celebrate the success of the students in MCCC’s Gateway to College program. Twenty-one students received their high school diplomas and several others received awards during the special ceremony.

MCCC’s Gateway to College program and its dedicated staff and faculty help students stay on track to complete the requirements they need for graduation. Since MCCC launched the program in 2013 at its campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, more than 150 students earned their high school diplomas. Gateway is part of the Achieving the Dream national network that promotes community college reform.

The graduates include Joel DeFilippo from Boyertown Area Senior High; Robert Compton Gateway to College graduatesfrom Cheltenham High School; Elijah Douglass, Joseph Draydon and Hayden Knott from Perkiomen High School; Justin Luckenbill from Phoenixville High School; Katherine Dunne from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School; Isaiah Walters, Bastian Miller, Haylee McDonald and Morganne Graves from Pottsgrove High School; Oumou Diallo, Naomi Vazquez and Citlalli Vega from Upper Merion High School; Debra Eldridge from Upper Perkiomen High School; Dayvion Augusma, Armond Butler, Weston Daniels, Kaleb Smith and Cesar Antonio Villanueva from Wissahickon High School; and Sarah Shelanski.

“When you look in the mirror, you should feel proud of all the hard work you did to reach this goal,” said Gateway Program Director Dr. Keima Sheriff to the graduates. “Remember that you have done great things and you need to continue to fight for greatness every day.”

As part of the ceremony, family members and school district representatives spoke about each graduate, acknowledging their growth and accomplishments and encouraging them to continue their progress as they start the next chapter. Ten of the graduates will continue their college education at MCCC in the fall, four will continue their education at other institutions and the rest will pursue employment opportunities.

During the ceremony, several students received the following recognitions:

  • Perfect Attendance  Award - Ryan Romig of Pottsgrove and Ali Eskandary of Plymouth Whitemarsh
  • Most Determined Award - Nya Zenquis of Phoenixville
  • Most Improved Award - Ryan Romig and McKenna Benner of Pottsgrove
  • Change of Heart Award - Ryan Romig of Pottsgrove
  • Most Courageous Award - Kaitlyn Deranleau of Phoenixville and McKenna Benner of Cheltenham
  • Overall Foundation Student - Ali Eskandary of Plymouth Whitemarsh
  • Perseverance Award - Isaiah Walters of Pottsgrove, Elijah Douglass of Perkiomen Valley and Hayden Knott of Upper Perkiomen
  • College Readiness Award – Debra Eldridge of Upper Perkiomen and William Moser of Perkiomen Valley
  • Rising Star – Katherine Dunne of Plymouth Whitemarsh

Nineteen school districts – Boyertown, Cheltenham, Colonial, Exeter, Daniel Boone, Hatboro-Horsham, Jenkintown, Norristown, Owen J. Roberts, Perkiomen Valley, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Phoenixville, Pottsgrove, Souderton, Upper Dublin, Upper Merion, Upper Moreland, Upper Perkiomen and Wissahickon - collaborate with MCCC, referring students to the program.

Additionally, partners Waste Management, PECO, Wells Fargo, Univest, TD Bank, the Kahn family, the Maguire Foundation, the Malik family, Ambler Savings, Thompkins VIST Bank, First Priority Bank, Montco WorksNow and the Gateway to College National Network have provided financial support for the program and student scholarships.

“I believe the true success of the program is the tireless dedication of the entire Gateway team, and I cannot thank them enough for their work in supporting our students,” said Dr. Sheriff. “We work together to make the goal of student completion the primary focus of the program.”

The team includes Vice President of Student Services Phil Needles, Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Nicole Henderson, Program Director Dr. Keima Sheriff, Resource Specialist Jezerey Weiderman, Resource Specialist Esau Collins, English Assistant Professor Diane McDonald, Reading Senior Lecturer Karen Harding-Tasca, Math Instructor Stephanie Wuertz, Math Senior Lecturer Donald Slaughter, English Instructor Tracey Fida, Psychology Instructor Amon Gibson and Psychology Instructor Kathleen Nash and Math Instructor Durrell Jones.