Catto Scholar Blog — Chelsea Hammond

Chelsea Hammond, Catto ScholarHello, everyone. My name is Chelsea and I am 30 years old. I am enrolled in the Paralegal Studies associate degree program here at Community College of Philadelphia.  I am currently in my first semester and this is the first time I have ever attended college EVER. I never thought that I would actually attend college and I absolutely love it. CCP has given me a lot of support and great opportunities, especially Mayor Jim Kenney's new anti-poverty Octavius Catto Scholarship.

I was raised by my grandparents from birth until I was 18 years old. When I was a child, my mother was a drug addict/alcoholic, and my father was not in my life. By the time I was a teenager, both my parents were in my life but they never raised me. I dealt with a lot of emotional problems as a child, which I ended up trying to drown out with drugs myself. I ended up graduating from an online charter school. When I turned 18, I moved out of the house. I struggled to support myself. Eventually by the time I was 24 years old, I was homeless on the streets of Kensington in Philadelphia. I knew that it was not the life that I wanted to live. I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever it took to get myself clean. 

I was in and out of rehab many times until eventually, I was able to stay clean. I had to rebuild my life completely all over again. I started out living in a halfway house and working part time at a chain retail store where I made less than $9 an hour. After many years of hard work, I finally was able to afford my own apartment. I had worked at a handful of places over the years and found sales rewarding. The downside was that I could not find anywhere willing to pay me more than $12 an hour, which barely covered my bills. I knew that if I went back to school, I could do something that I really loved, make more money, and find a job that was more reliable.

After first applying to CCP, I was notified that I was eligible for the Catto Scholarship. I was very grateful to the Mayor and the CCP team for the opportunity to get extra support. At first, I knew that I would be getting extra financial assistance, but I did not know much more about all the opportunities that I would soon be presented. I was honored to be able to meet the Mayor on Zoom during a virtual Board of Trustees meeting, and I also did a news interview to share more information with the community. The scholarship would have covered any left-over tuition expenses, and it did cover the ENTIRE cost of my books! Within my first few weeks at CCP, I was able to receive my monthly stipend and extra support services.

I was introduced to all the CCP faculty involved with the Catto Scholarship, and I met all scholarship recipients through Zoom. Everyone that I have met has been extremely friendly and helpful.  I met with my success coach, who set me up with services based on my needs, both personal and education related. It is nice having someone in your corner to turn to when you are just starting school, especially when we are completely virtual at this time. I was able to choose from a number of Zoom meetings and workshops that were based on different topics. I attended one about financial planning, which provided helpful information. I also received my monthly stipend, which helped pay for my food for almost an entire month.

I love this scholarship and I am so thankful that I was qualified to receive it. It makes my college experience so much easier by helping me financially (which allows for more study time) and providing any extra services that I may need. Thank you, Mayor Kenney and CCP team, for this awesome opportunity!