From Susan Snyder, The Philadelphia Inquirer:

They didn’t plan it this way, but life events brought all three – grandmother, mother, and daughter – to the same college campus, from which they will have the coincidental delight of graduating together next month.

Family matriarch Gwendolyn McNuckles, 56, her daughter Dionne Garrison, 35, and granddaughter Denise Garrison, 20, all of Philadelphia, will get their degrees in business administration on June 14 from Peirce College, a private, nonprofit institution that primarily serves working adults over age 25.

They dream of someday going into business together.

“We call ourselves the triple threat,” said McNuckles, a magna cum laude graduate.

But before that, they will be honored at noon Friday during a citywide graduation celebration to highlight Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s plan to boost the percentage of Philadelphia residents with college degrees.

Philadelphia ranks among the lowest U.S. cities in percentage of college graduates, according to the 2000 census. The most recent data indicate that 21 percent of the city’s residents over 25 hold a degree.

Dionne Garrison was the first of the three family members to enroll at Peirce, in 2006. Having given birth to Denise at 14, she had dropped out of high school and went back for her GED, with a desire to continue on.

Her mother, Gwendolyn McNuckles, an avid reader with a natural curiosity, joined her in 2007.

When McNuckles graduated from high school in Los Angeles decades earlier, she wanted a career in business and fancied herself attending the University of Hawaii. Her father, however, thought she should aim for a government job or become a nurse.

Over the years, as she endured two difficult marriages and raised children, she never lost her dream. She tried other colleges, including Gwynedd-Mercy, but struggled.

She almost gave up. Her daughter changed her mind.

“She said, ‘I told you, Peirce is where you needed to be. Now get up and meet me down there,’ ” recalled McNuckles, an administrative assistant at Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, based in Pennsauken.

A year later, in 2008, Denise Garrison enrolled at Peirce. She couldn’t afford to stay at North Carolina Agricultural and Technology State University, where she went after Roxborough High School.

The women got government loans, grants, and scholarships but still owe $30,000 or more each in loans. Peirce charges about $15,000 per year for tuition for 10 courses.

At the Peirce graduation on June 14, McNuckles – an official toastmaster – will introduce Nutter as commencement speaker. Her parents are coming from Waco, Texas. Her mother got a degree while raising children, and McNuckles said she inspired her to keep going.

Looking ahead, Dionne Garrison wants to attend law school and work in business. She works as a secretary at Aria Health in the department that serves hospice patients.

Denise Garrison, a claims assistant for the Department of Veterans Affairs, isn’t yet sure of her next step.

McNuckles will attend Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service in the fall for her master’s. She hopes to become a business professor and work with students who struggle until they find the right fit.

“I’d love to teach at Peirce someday,” she said.

Continue to the full article at The Philadelphia Inquirer website.