Starting … Stopping … Starting (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from: Community College of Allegheny County, Featured Alumni Profile, retrieved 5.3.11)

Cherrita Allen-Fitzgerald

New Options/New Choices Program Leads Alumna to Teaching Career at Boyce Middle College

When Cherrita Allen-Fitzgerald came to CCAC [Community College of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, PA] in the early 1990s, she was a nontraditional student. “I was 29-years-old and didn’t have any idea what I was going to do when I came here,” she says. Despite her uncertainty, Cherrita not only excelled at CCAC, but was honored as a Legendary Alumna in 1999.

Prior to enrolling at CCAC, Cherrita attended Peabody High School in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. As a member of National Honor Society and the school’s track and field team, Cherrita was an exemplary student. After graduating from Peabody in 1979, she attended the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) to major in engineering. “It was very tough,” she says. “At the time, the engineering program was not very female-friendly. It was very discouraging and I soon left.”

After leaving Pitt, Cherrita got married, moved to North Carolina and started a family. In 1989, she and her family decided to move back to Pittsburgh. “I was originally from North Carolina, but couldn’t stay away from Pittsburgh,”she says. “All my family’s here.”

Cherrita and her husband divorced shortly after returning which influenced her decision to enroll at CCAC. “I wanted to be able to support my kids as a single parent,” she says. “In order to do that, I needed a career. CCAC’s New Options/New Choices program drew me here.”

The New Options/New Choices program provides career development services for single parents, displaced homemakers, single pregnant women and individuals interested in nontraditional vocational-technical education. These programs offer services to assist indi viduals in finding jobs or occupational training programs that will enable them to support themselves and their families.

Cherrita decided to attend Boyce Campus, and worked toward a degree in mathematics and sciences through CCAC’s University Parallel program, which provides support toward a baccalaureate degree in the math and sciences field. “Boyce Campus was absolutely phenomenal,” she says. “The teachers were so supportive, and through their support and guidance, I focused my studies on math.”

While at CCAC, Cherrita was involved in “almost everything.” As a member of Student Government, she served in many capacities, including vice president and treasurer. She was president of the Progressive African Americans, and also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. Cherrita also tutored students.

After graduating with an AS in mathematics and science in 1994, Cherrita transferred to La Roche College to complete her degree in mathematics education. Following her graduation from La Roche in 1997, Cherrita was hired to teach math at the Boyce Campus Middle College High School. While teaching, she worked toward obtaining a master’s degree in education from Gannon University, which she completed in 2003.

Since 1997, Cherrita has taught math to students enrolled in the Middle College. She says she enjoys her job because it allows her to motivate and counsel high school students in their future endeavors. In 1999, Cherrita was honored as the Legendary Alumna at the CCAC Educational Foundation’s second annual An Illumination of Legends in Leadership gala. “It was absolutely wonderful to know that people remembered me as a student,” she says. “I was honored to know that I made a difference. It was great to have my kids see me accept the award.”

Three years ago, Cherrita remarried and now spends her spare time with her family. She is a deaconess at St. Paul Baptist Church in Point Breeze, and is an active servant within her church community. In her spare time she also loves going to flea markets and yard sales.

Cherrita credits CCAC with jump-starting her education and career. “CCAC offers a supportive, family-like atmosphere. When I was here, the faculty and staff were really good about helping me do anything I wanted to do. Students need to use the resources CCAC offers. Don’t just come here to take your classes and leave. Get involved.”


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