The Liberty Scholars set to finish their degrees this year gathered at Friday's celebration in their honor.
Tamera Jamison was driving on I-95 on her way home from Delaware when her daughter, Zoë, an Academy of Palumbo student, gave her a call.
Jamison feared it might be more bad news — when she and Zoë’s father both were laid off, their daughter’s college prospects took a significant hit. But this phone call was meant to deliver some great news: Zoë had just been accepted into Drexel’s Liberty Scholars program.
“I was very joyous, I was very thankful,” Tamera said. “I had to pull over. I just had to pull over and give praise.”
Each year, Drexel awards 50 full scholarships to Philadelphia high school students who might otherwise have not had the means to attend the University or college at all.
Assistant Vice President of Protocol and Special Events and Liberty Scholar mentor Sandra Donahue congratulating a student from the program who is set to graduate this year.
Because of her scholarship, Zoë went from contemplating second and third choices for her education and career to traveling abroad to places like Italy and Scotland, majoring in behavioral health counseling and seriously considering graduate school.
“Liberty Scholars meant everything,” Zoë said. “All of this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Nick Perez, director of Liberty Scholars, shares some of the joy Zoë’s mother felt.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said Friday at a reception in Main Building’s Great Court celebrating the second class of Liberty Scholars to graduate since the program began in 2010. “It’s fantastic because this is the goal, graduation, and we’re here at the finish line.”
Drexel President John A. Fry was on hand to congratulate the students and their families.
“It’s unthinkable that these students, five years ago, may have thought they couldn’t attend this University,” he said after listing off the group’s accolades.
Thirty-five Liberty Scholars are set to their degrees this year, joining the 16 who were part of the program’s inaugural class.
Linda Vu was a part of that first class and was on hand Friday as Drexel celebrated the second wave of Liberty Scholar graduates. She said she was “very proud” of the new class.
Now a nurse in the NICU at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Vu said the program gave her the boost to where she is today.
President John A. Fry speaking at the celebration of the Liberty Scholars set to finish their degrees in 2015. Fry told those gathered to support the students that they "must be bursting with pride."
“Drexel has always been my dream school. [Before I was accepted to Liberty Scholars], I was like, ‘Maybe a little community college and then Drexel?’ But with the program I was able to go right to it and I felt like I was able to do so much in such little time,” Vu said. “At Drexel, I was able to reach my potential. I didn’t have any bills and I was able to go to class and not have to worry and do my best. That’s how I’m able to be where I am.”
Fry called the program “a long-term investment” in the future of the students.
Another Liberty Scholar alum at the celebration Friday was Stephanie Tran, an accounting major who now works as a tax associate at McGladrey LLP.
“I would definitely not be where I am today if I didn’t have this scholarship,” said Tran, a West Catholic High School grad. “Beside just from where I stand financially, but also, all of my experiences. I wouldn’t have been able to live on campus, or have so many mentorships, or so many people care about me and my well-being.”
Having a Drexel education under her belt has made the transition to the working world much easer than it would have been otherwise, Tran said.
“Every job application I applied to, I got an interview almost right away,” she said.
“Drexel’s investment in the Liberty Scholars program truly pays when you see the alumni achieving great things as working professionals or in graduate school,” Perez said. “The further we get out from the point of graduation, the long-term success is going to become more self-evident.”
Each of the Liberty Scholars graduating this year was recognized by name during Friday’s ceremony. They spanned colleges and schools across Drexel, had plans for graduate, law and medical school after June’s commencement, will begin working at places like Deloitte Consulting and the PFM Group and took part in a plethora of extra-curricular activities, including the STAR program, the Global Brigades and the Drexel Investment Group.
Michael Wade speaks about the clubs he joined and opportunities he had at Drexel that he might not have otherwise experienced without the Liberty Scholars program.
“It’s such an enormous point of pride, your presence and your success,” Fry told the Scholars seated before him.
“They’re all successful in whatever major they chose,” Tran said. “It shows this program works. It’s helping in the Philadelphia area and I’m pretty sure a lot of these students wouldn’t be in their career path without it.”