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September 1, 2014, 12:44 pm

Grade school kids VIPs at Cheyney graduation

This summer several Pennypacker Elementary School students from Northwest Philadelphia are considering attending Cheyney University.

Even though school ended on June 14 and won’t reconvene until September, these youngsters vowed to keep reading, writing and thinking during the hot summer days of July and August. Why? The students want to wear a cap and gown when they earn their college degrees in about a decade.

In a classroom discussion with the school’s extracurricular group Leaders of the Pack, teacher and advisor LaTwyne Wise realized that many of the students had never been to a college commencement. In fact, some had never seen any graduation ceremony. That’s when she decided to write most of the Delaware Valley colleges and universities asking if the Northwest Philadelphia students could attend their graduation.

“Cheyney University was the only one who responded,” Wise said. “Not only did they give the students a chance to see a graduation, but they rolled out the red carpet for us. I was able to take 15 students, and they put us in the reserved section right up front. We were up in the front of the tent where we could see the Rev. Jesse Jackson up close.”

Students such as Tiana Fitts of West Oak Lane and Rayaina Green of Mount Airy readily admitted one event changed their lives. For Fitts it was the words of the commencement speaker, Terrence Howard, that she will remember this summer.

“He said while relationships are important, we all still have to work hard to reach our goal,” she said.

What stood out was the message to keep moving forward, according to Green. “Sometimes we might mess up, but we can’t go through life looking back at what you should have done,” she said. “I will remember that.”

Aaliyah Simmons of West Oak Lane said though she has been to college graduations for various family members before, but it was special to go to one with her classmates.

“Going to Cheyney, and the way they treated us, made me think I might want to go to college there,” she said. “I like the campus and it was fun to make it a class trip.”

Wise said the Cheyney administrators said they would welcome Pennypacker students at their commencement again.

“They are taking this experience with them into this summer,” Wise said of the students. “And what an experience, because it was absolutely phenomenal.”