Peirce College Celebrates Class of 2022

Jun 8, 2022, 07:47 AM by Amanda Hill

College to Hold First In-Person Ceremony in Two Years with 299 Adult Learners


In the past few years, they have had to learn how to work remotely, help their children learn remotely, been separated from elderly parents and loved ones, and navigated social unrest and, in some cases, the loss of employment.

But the Peirce College Class of 2022 continued to believe in better. And on Thursday, June 9th, they will finally get their moment on the stage to be honored for what they have accomplished.

Peirce College will hold its 157th Commencement at the Suzanne Roberts Theater on South Broad Street - the institution’s first in-person ceremony in two years - to celebrate the tenacious and determined students who persevered through it all. Two ceremonies will be held - at 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. - to meet safety guidelines amid the ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases.

“The Class of 2022 have demonstrated to the world that they have the commitment, the drive and the grit for whatever is thrown their way,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Caro, Peirce College President & CEO. “While balancing busy schedules, rigorous academic demands, a global pandemic, and social unrest, these graduates earned the credentials that will help them realize their personal and professional goals. It is our honor to serve them.”

With an average age of 37, the Peirce Class of 2022 includes 44 graduates over the age of 50. In addition, 77 percent of graduates identify as women, and 53 percent of graduates identify as Black or African American.

Graduates include:

  • Julio Acosta, a first generation immigrant and frontline worker during the pandemic who applied 90 transfer credits to his degree program at Peirce. He leveraged Peirce’s partnership with to complete additional courses as part of his degree program, saving him thousands of dollars and allowing him to complete his degree in a little over a year and find a new full-time job in IT.
  • Shakiera Felder, a single mother and healthcare employee who worked two full-time jobs during the pandemic and finished her bachelor’s degree in less than two years by leveraging the flexibility of Peirce’s partnership with “After I would get my newborn to sleep, I would go on the app and get my classes finished, sometimes at 3am,” she said. “I would even be on the app while breastfeeding my infant!”
  • Melissa Keagy Rossiter, who, after years of working as a paralegal, was turned down for a new position because she lacked a degree. She learned about Peirce’s highly respected program and is now graduating with her bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies.
  • Janelle Raye Shaw, a SEPTA employee who works night shift, would often complete her homework at 2 a.m. on her lunch break. Peirce’s online programs allowed her the flexibility she needed to complete her Bachelor of Science in Accounting. Because of Peirce’s Graduate Scholars program, Shaw graduates with six master’s credits and is already halfway through her master’s program.
  • Lea Chemere Gill, an employee of Allegheny Health Network. While browsing the internet one day while bored, she stumbled on a Peirce advertisement that encouraged her to finish her degree for the career she deserved. She has earned two degrees from Peirce since she started in July 2018, and is now working on her doctoral degree.

    The Class of 2022 also includes the first graduates of Career Bridge from Peirce College - an innovative program that prepares students with the skills, certifications and credentials needed for jobs that pay family-sustaining wages and guides them to those jobs in less than a year. Eight participants are graduating with certificates in Client Services, IT Support, and Medical Coding.

    Regina A. Hairston, President & CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), will serve as keynote speaker at each ceremony. A solutions-oriented and resourceful strategist who employs a creative approach to transforming visions into results, Hairston’s leadership guides the vision, policies, and programming of the AACC with passion, purpose, and poise.

    AACC has promoted the voice, the vision, and the value of black-owned businesses for nearly three decades, but under her tenure has taken that spirit of innovation and applied it to the needs of the Chamber’s growing members. She facilitated the launch of programs to increase and provide direct access to capital, developed a unique peership and mentorship program, and leveraged corporate partnerships for the success of the Chamber’s members.

    Prior to leading AACC, Hairston served as Chief Deputy, Register of Wills, and Clerk of the Orphan’s Court, where she successfully invoked her skills to champion the mission of protecting generational wealth within the City of Philadelphia. Previously, Regina was a Senior Associate at Bellevue Strategies. There, she advanced client objectives by developing and executing government affairs, community relations, and media and communications strategies. Prior she held multiple roles within the Philadelphia education system. A strong networker with a record of cultivating partnerships with a broad cross-section of stakeholders, Regina served as Director of External Affairs.

    Student keynote addresses will be given at each ceremony by the following graduates:

  • 12 p.m. Ceremony: Makeda Dorn-Mitchell, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management, is a veteran who served 22 years on active duty, and who put off her studies to serve her country and raise her children. Starting during the pandemic meant that she had to be her children’s teacher by day and utilize Peirce’s online course delivery at night. She was the first person in her immediate family to graduate from high school and is now the first person to graduate from college.
  • 3:30 p.m. Ceremony: Adriann Bautista, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and a Certificate in Client Services, after starting her educational journey more than 21 years ago. She is a native of Philadelphia, a mother of two adult children, and a Research Business Administrator at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and promised herself she would complete her degree before she turned 60 - which she has done with years to spare.

The Class of 2022 includes the first graduates of the College’s new Graduate Certificate programs in Nonprofit Leadership and Operations Management.

While many of the 299 graduates will attend in person, those unable to celebrate at the theater are invited to join the livestream on the College’s YouTube channel, as slides with all graduate names will be shown. Graduates will be sharing photos and videos of their watch parties using the hashtags #PoweredbyPeirce and #Commencement2022.

Additionally, graduates were encouraged to submit photos of their decorated Commencement caps and advice videos in advance of the ceremony. 

“We are extremely proud of Adriann, Makeda, Julio, Shakiera, Melissa, Janelle, Lea, and all of the graduates who came to Peirce to advance their education and their careers,” said Dr. Caro. “I am also thankful to Ms. Hairston for helping us celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the Class of 2022.”

Media Contact:
Amanda Hill

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