It pains us to say that the Class of 2020 was unable to cross the finish line without bearing two enormous losses, and one tragic loss days before our 2021 Commencement ceremony celebrating both our 2020 and 2021 graduates.
Imari Hearst, Jorel Thomas and Janette Reyes were vibrant, kind and dedicated members of our CCP family. Beloved by their classmates, professors and the College’s staff, the weight of this loss feels insurmountable.
But the joy and love that they brought to our campus community will always shine in our memories. That is the gift they gave to us all, and that light is what we will hold forever in our hearts. That is why we must honor their legacy by remembering that the most important part of our lives is the love that we share.
Please join us in remembering Imari, Jorel and Janette.
Imari created history at MaST Community Charter School in Philadelphia by graduating from Community College of Philadelphia in 2020 with an associate degree before graduating with her high school diploma. She was the first African American to complete the MC2 program. Already understanding the importance of how she can be a positive influence on others, Imari said in a 2020 interview with the Philadelphia Sunday Sun that, "Being the first African American at my school to do this had an impact on me by giving me the drive to stay more determined to achieve my goals. I feel [that when] the African American underclassmen seeing me accomplish this goal, [it] will give them the reassurance and hope that they, too, can be a part of this program and excel. Something I would say to the classes after me is to not let anyone or anything come in the way of what you want and where you want to be. Do not let the color of your skin hold you back from being the best you can be, and always be grateful for those who doubt you, because in the end you’re going to prove them wrong.”
Her words ring more true than ever after a year where unspeakable injustices brought the need for racial equality to the forefront of society. "Education is super important, especially right now in this time that our society is facing. I think it is super important though for our people of color to take the time to educate themselves, if not educated by somebody, on the importance of the racial and social injustices currently happening in our country. I, too, have a brother and I want him to be able to grow up in a society where he is not judged based on the color of his skin or his appearance. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone can conquer any obstacles they are faced with when they put their hearts and minds to it. I am grateful for the opportunities that this program has given me and the opportunities that are to come. I hope that my story inspires at least one person to continue striving to greatness."
The entire Community College of Philadelphia community sadly says goodbye to Imari, a beautiful light that was extinguished far too soon, and our condolences go out to her friends and family. May she continue to shine in every heart she touched.
The Liberal Studies Division was greatly saddened when we learned of the passing of Jorel Thomas, our dedicated work-study student. Jorel had been with the Division for nearly two years and many thought of him as a gentle giant. Others noted how respectful and kind he was. It was not uncommon for Jorel to greet each of us with a welcoming “Good afternoon”.
Jorel had several passions and one was travel. Recently, he visited Jamaica with family and shared how he had enjoyed the trip. There were other places, such as Budapest, which he said he wanted to visit as well; he could often be found reading travel books about interesting places.
His fellow student co-workers, the department heads, staff, and administrators enjoyed working with him. We will miss Jorel and are so grateful that he was part of our team.
“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
This was Jorel. He never wavered from being kind. I learned about his musical abilities when we would have our talks and encouraged him to pursue that dream. After that conversation, he began taking music courses in addition to Psychology. He would have been an amazing musician. It was always a pleasure for me as his supervisor and mentor to teach him about life on a professional and personal level. We have lost an angel only for God to gain one. I will miss him!
Liberal Studies Division
Jorel was one of the most dedicated work-study students that I have ever worked with, always respectful and kind. He never corrected me on pronouncing his name wrong (sometimes I got it right), that was our pet peeve. He will forever be in my thoughts. Rest in Power my son.
Jackie Harvey Jenkins
Liberal Studies Dept.
Jorel Thomas was a student in one of my statistics classes. This course can be more than a little bit of trouble for many students and yet, Jorel persisted. Not talkative in class, when he did share his thoughts, he made meaningful contributions, clarifying points for others. On the few occasions he fell behind, he always put in the effort to get quality work submitted as soon as he was able. Lots of teachers know the old adage: “I don’t want to hear how rough the water is, just bring the ship in”. During our time together, Jorel never let me know how rough the water was for him, but he always brought in the ship. I am deeply saddened that he is no longer with us at CCP because we can no longer see him masterfully helm his ship towards the horizon. Jorel Thomas will be deeply missed.
Janette Reyes was a student in my seminar class. She was confident, smart, witty and great to have in class. One of my fondest memories of Janette is the time that she emailed me to ask why she didn’t receive the maximum amount of points for one of her assignments. When I reviewed her grade, I realized that indeed she was correct, and I had not given her the correct points. I emailed her back almost immediately, apologized and changed her grade. In my explanation to her, I told her I wasn’t sure how I made the mistake in the first place. She scored well on the test which automatically would give her the maximum points. I had commented in her gradebook congratulating her, yet I didn’t give her the correct points. She replied almost instantly, “Lol You’re human and have tons on your plate so mistakes happen! I appreciate you taking the time to recheck.” I didn’t anticipate that gracious response from her. I really appreciated it. I appreciated that she respectfully advocated for herself. I appreciated her graciousness and sense of humor. I’m sure she would’ve applied those skills to the nursing profession. I’m sure she would’ve been an amazing nurse. I’m sad that the world will never know how smart she was, and hard she worked in school. She will be missed.
Petrina McFarlane, MSN, RN
Assistant Professor- Department of Nursing
Community College of Philadelphia