A mother, a community leader, an advocate, and a first-generation college graduate: Meet Maryelis Santiago

A mother, a community leader, an advocate, and a first-generation college graduate: Meet Maryelis Santiago

Maryelis Santiago is a mother, a community leader, an advocate, and a first-generation college graduate. She is a three-time graduate of Peirce College and was recently named to AL DÍA’s list of 40 Under Forty Honorees, which showcases some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region.

After starting her college journey at the Community College of Philadelphia, Maryelis transferred to Peirce College in 2012, to pursue a career in Information Technology (IT). After researching colleges and speaking with her advisor about schools tailored to working adults, she found Peirce. The hybrid delivery model, flexible hours, and Peirce’s student-focused culture were huge selling points for her. 

“I wanted to further my knowledge and grow in the field while learning from other working professionals,” she said.

In 2014, she earned an Associate in Science in Information Technology, and completed her Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, with a Concentration in Programming and Application Development. In 2017, she completed a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership & Management, which she leveraged to move into a new professional role in community outreach. 

She decided to pursue her education to set a good example for her daughter and to find a career in a position that helps and advocates for her community. During her time at Peirce, Maryelis faced myriad challenges as she balanced being a student, a single parent, and a full-time employee. 

“I was the single parent of a toddler, a new homeowner, and was working a full-time job with hopes of moving past being low-income,” she said. “I was able to overcome those obstacles by finding like-minded people and accepting the advice and support from others whenever it was offered.”

Maryelis describes her experience at Peirce as more than she would have ever bargained for. 

Peirce College changed my life!” she said. “Peirce is where I made lifelong friends, where I obtained my degrees and I have excelled so much professionally as a result.”

She continued, “From the moment I became a Peirce student, I knew that excelling academically would be an easy task because I was in a place with students who were like-minded, had immediate goals they wanted to reach, career experiences they were open to sharing, and we were all ready to hit the ground running.”

Maryelis currently works as the Director of Family and Community Engagement for Esperanza Cyber Charter School. She also has been appointed as a member of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission (CPOC), a commission that would eventually take the place of the Police Advisory Commission (PAC) and serve as the City of Philadelphia’s new, independent civilian oversight agency. Out of 320 applicants, she was one of nine nominees considered for the position. Shortly after, she was formally appointed.

Due to her deep-rooted passion to help young people thrive in the city of Philadelphia, she felt a desire to be a part of the CPOC.

“As a Latina, raised by a single mother in a low-income home, where everyone struggled with a language barrier it was often hard for me and I felt like I was forced to face adversity alone,” she said.

To help others who are in similar situations, Maryelis has dedicated her life to serving the community and she believes that the commission can accomplish great things by providing an avenue to unite people.  

“I am forever grateful for my community and for the opportunity to serve as a liaison for others,” she said. 

And for all her fellow Peirce students and the working adults considering going back to school, Maryelis has some advice, “It’s only impossible if you don’t get started! The faculty, the amazing professional students and the climate at Peirce made my experience a good one and I would encourage anyone who is considering a college education to take the leap of faith.”

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments, Maryelis! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

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