A 59-year-old great-grandmother from Yeadon and a 19-year-old associate minister from Folcroft were among the more than 1,400 students who graduated from Delaware County Community College (DCCC) recently at a ceremony held at Villanova University’s Pavilion building.
Bonnie Tyler, a business management major, wife of 40 years, mother of two, grandmother of five, and great-grandmother of three, reinvented herself at DCCC after 15 years of working as an administrative assistant for Pep Boys and at a local Montessori school.
After working for many years, she determined that she needed to go back to school to update her skills and learn about the new rules of the 21st century workplace. President Barack Obama also inspired Tyler’s decision to go back to school.
“After you have worked for a while you realize that you need to catch up on technology and what is new out here,” she said. “What really inspired me to go back to school after all these years was President Obama during his election year. He talked about the important of education and how no matter what obstacles may be in our way we can do it.
“After hearing his message on education I said ‘I’m going back to school and I can do this,’” she added. “In order to get further in life, you need a good education. The president not only inspired me to go back, but his message also gave me the extra push that I needed. I’m the first out of my mother’s children to graduate from college.”
Tyler learned about age discrimination, sexual harassment and other workplace rules at DCCC. She also became close friends with students from other cultures.
“My experience at DCCC was very knowledgeable,” Tyler said. “The overall atmosphere was very friendly. I became really good friends with people from other cultures, especially students who were African. Some of the students from Africa couldn’t speak too well, so I was tutoring them and helping them with their English and studies. The students at DCCC also helped me out in some of my studies.”
In the future, Tyler plans to turn her hobby of planning weddings for friends and members of her church, 19th Street Baptist in South Philadelphia, into a full-fledged wedding and event planning business. She hasn’t ruled out furthering her education and getting her bachelor’s degree.
“Getting an education is very rewarding and I found it to be fun,” she said. “My plan was to just get my associate’s degree. I would like a bachelor’s degree, but just not right now; maybe in five years. The door will always be open for that plan. It’s never too late to get an education.”
Statistics show nontraditional students such as Tyler are returning to school — often community colleges — to increase their skills, earn degrees or to attain shorter-term, non-credit certificates. Nearly 388,000 students age 50 and older were enrolled in community colleges in 2009, the most recent data available, according to the American Association of Community Colleges based in Washington, D.C.
Traditional age students like Lance Bennett of Folcroft, were also among DCCC graduates. Bennett earned an associate in arts degree in communication arts. He plans to transfer to Eastern University, where he will double major in communications studies and philosophy.
“I chose DCCC to continue my education because it was a really reasonable college, especially for those who come from low-income families,” he said. “The college really prepares you to transfer to a four-year institution. I was able to do a lot of networking and got to develop my leadership skills while I was there. The teachers helped me and allowed me to also see my full potential. My overall experience at DCCC was great.”
An associate minister in his church, Second Baptist Church in Media, Bennett was president of Campus Bible Fellowship. He took advantage of a program at the College that allows him to transfer credits to Eastern University, a four-year school where he will start as a junior in the honors program.
“The goals that I have for myself, does not end with DCCC,” he said. “I want to be a college professor and teach communications. I want to write a couple books including a textbook for communications.
“I also want to be able to mentor a lot of young Black males,” Bennett added. “I believe that a lot of young Black men don’t have the resources that they need, especially if they don’t have a male figure in their life, so they need someone from the outside to help mentor them and show them that you can achieve personally and professionally.”
While Bennett is already looking forward to the future, he is still reveling in his recent accomplishment. He hopes that through his accomplishments he will be able to inspire other people.
“When my graduation came, I was extremely proud because I accomplished my goal at DCCC, which was to graduate from the college in two years,” he said. “If I could give advice to high school or other college students, I would tell them to make goals for yourself and be active on campus. I would also tell them to keep going, stay focused and work hard. If you do those things, you will succeed and accomplish everything that you want.”