PA Community Colleges Honor Exceptional Students


For Immediate Release                                            

Media Contact:  Danielle Gross

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April 14, 2015                                                                 

PA Community Colleges Honor Exceptional Students

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges honored the 21st Annual All-Pennsylvania Academic Team at an awards banquet on Monday, April 13 in Harrisburg. The awards recognize an exceptional group of community college students who have achieved excellence and demonstrated a commitment to their colleges and communities.

The 2015 All-PA Team consists of 44 outstanding community college scholars from across the Commonwealth. They are an exceptionally diverse group, ranging from a teenager who will receive her high school diploma and associate’s degree within a span of two weeks, to a grandmother of four. These students are a testament to the community colleges’ mission that was created over 50 years ago: to provide an accessible and affordable path to higher education for all Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania’s community colleges partner with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities to provide scholarships to All-PA Team members at PASSHE institutions.

PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan describes the All-PA Team as “an exceptional program,” adding, “Since 2001, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education has assisted nearly 300 students through this program. We are proud to be a participant, and to be able to provide tuition assistance to team members who will go on to attend one of our 14 universities.”

Twenty nine of this year’s team members intend to transfer to PASSHE institutions, and 35 of them intend to pursue postgraduate education in a wide range of fields.

The student receiving the highest All-USA Community College Academic Team application score in each state is named a Coca-Cola New Century Scholar. Aaron Rosengarten of Northampton Community College is this year’s recipient of the honor, and a $2,000 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Educational Foundation.

“Northampton has excellent resources and fosters a supportive environment. If it weren’t for the numerous opportunities at the college, I may not have been where I am at right now,” said Rosengarten. “Being nominated for the PA Academic Team was a very proud moment because it’s such a prestigious award that recognizes not only academic achievement, but community involvement as well.”

The Team also includes 5 Coca-Cola Gold Scholars, representing 10% of the total gold scholars nationwide, who will receive $1,500 scholarships, as well as 3 Coca-Cola Silver Scholars, who will receive $1,250 scholarships.

Dr. Karen Morris-Priester, an alumna of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, served as the evening’s Distinguished Alumni Speaker. Dr. Morris-Priester is an anesthesiologist at Coordinated Health in Allentown who grew up in a housing project in Harrisburg, and aspired to be the first in her family to attend college, a dream that was put on hold as she started a family. Years later, as a single mother of five with a full-time job, she enrolled in nursing school at HACC, moving on to York College of Pennsylvania for a bachelor’s degree. In 2007, she became the first grandmother to graduate from Yale School of Medicine, and was honored on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Dr. Morris Priester, who devotes a substantial portion of her time to mentoring young people interested in pursuing higher education, shared the challenges she faced on her path to a medical degree. “”Life can knock you down. It’s up to you whether you stay there,” said Priester.

The following students were honored at Monday’s banquet:

Community College of Allegheny County

Hashim Ahmed

Jennifer Alspaugh, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar

Emily Burks

Lianna Coholich

Cassie Gartin, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar.

Megan McMonagle

Eric Reiche

Melissa Suehr

Community College of Beaver County

Katie Fisher

Danielle Suman

Bucks County Community College

Marie Helstrom

Christina Smith

Butler County Community College

Andrea Dean

Jenna Massaro

Delaware County Community College

Elizabeth Betancourt

Nathanaelle Dubreuil

HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College

Bryce Detweiler

Quyen Do

Christine Hallman

Theresa Kings

Darice Mayhew

Lehigh Carbon Community College

Michael Colarusso, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar

Chelsea Simonson

Luzerne County Community College

Jamie Derr

Ariel Harro

Montgomery County Community College

Kendra Houck, Coca-Cola Silver Scholar

Heidi Hunsberger, Coca-Cola Silver Scholar

Caitlin Moser

Angelina Sirak

Northampton Community College

Rachel Cimera

Steven Davanzo, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar

Carla Garis, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar

Aaron Rosengarten, Coca-Cola New Century Scholar

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College

Cassidy Belle

Jennifer Biggs

Danielle Close

Michaela Hanlon

R. Patrick Lehman, Coca-Cola Silver Scholar

Community College of Philadelphia

Kouame Yannick Aka

Lizette Lewis

Reading Area Community College

Rachel Lee

Cherylann McGuire

Westmoreland County Community College

Casey Jarding

Rachael Marks



The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges is a voluntary membership association for Pennsylvania’s community colleges.  Its members include the college presidents, members of the colleges’ boards of trustees, and key college administrators.  The Commission represents the interests of and advocates for the collective needs of the community colleges to federal and state policymakers.  For more information, please visit