Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Featured Learner Series: How tough starts can equal strong finishes

FEATURED LEARNER: Abel is pictured here receiving his
scholarship from Philadelphia Academics, Inc.
Image courtesy of Kate Hennessy Photography. 
“I’m just a regular guy, working as hard as I can to achieve my dreams and goals.” That’s according to Abel Jose-Perez, a 2011 Kensington High School graduate and current Peirce student. He’s also our next Featured Learner, and for good reason: Abel might be a “regular guy,” but his motivation and dedication are inspiring to all those around him.

Abel was born and raised in Philadelphia in the Kensington area. He attended Kensington High School, where he felt that drugs, violence, and lack of focus on education were often part of the norm. His parents also divorced when he was a year old, adding additional instability in his life.

Yet he didn’t want his situation to set the pace for his educational journey. Instead, he used it as motivation to prove that a tough start doesn’t necessarily bring about a weak finish.

Abel enrolled in a mentoring program offered by Deloitte, an accounting firm in Center City, during his senior year of high school. It was through this program that he heard about College Access, an organization that helps Philadelphians find the college that best fits their needs. Its officials connected Abel with Peirce.

“I wanted to go to a college close to where I work and go to classes at night. I also didn’t want to live on campus, so I felt like Peirce was the right college for me,” Abel said. Abel enrolled in our General Studies program to assess his goals and discover where he wants to take his career. Students can earn an associate degree in our General Studies program and then declare a major when moving into our bachelor’s degree program.

“I like psychology and I like communication. I’m thinking about either of those, so General Studies seemed like a good fit. I also want to preach, so studying theology is one of my ultimate goals,” he said. “I talk to my friends about going to Peirce because I think it’s one of the best schools where you can go to work and take classes at night. Plus the accelerated classes are one of the best things that they have. I know that I want to get a lot done in a little amount of time so that I can get my credits as soon as possible and obtain my degree.”

Abel now lives on his own, works full-time as an administrative assistant at law firm Sand & Saidel, P.C., and attends his classes at night. “Of course it’s hectic, but it’s worth it. If you have a goal like I do, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure you make that goal a reality.”

Abel uses Peirce’s support services to help him balance his studies with his busy schedule. “I love the support the Walker Center provides with its math and English tutoring. I actually love all of the resources that Peirce offers because it shows that Peirce College has the mindset of helping its students know the subject matter, as well as helping them move forward and coming out victorious,” he said.

Abel has been inspiring others around him as well. Philadelphia Academies, Inc. recently presented him with its Pay it Forward Scholarship Award, which honors individuals who have overcome significant challenges in order to pursue their educational and career goals.

He is applying this full scholarship to his Peirce education. “I’m focused on getting my associate degree from Peirce, and afterwards I’ll focus on getting my bachelor’s degree. Then if I decide to get my master’s degree, I’ll focus on that also. I’m trying to take it one step at a time.”

Abel knows that his internal drive will keep him moving forward. “It doesn’t matter what background you have. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a good or a bad neighborhood. What determines your future is how bad do you want it? How bad do you want that dream to come alive?”

And Abel hopes to motivate others through his story. “Whenever a student is thinking about dropping a class or not furthering their education, I want them to take a minute to look at their goals and dreams, and to think about their decision to give up. Because giving up is a decision that we make. And those who succeed and who make a difference are the people that strive to do better, are determined to work hard, and they give it everything they have.”

We know Abel will continue to achieve great things in his life, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!