Funeral Service Student Willie Singletary Describes How Persistence and Determination Moved Him Past Lifes Hardships Toward Commencement Speaker and an A.A.S. Degree at Mercer County Community College

I want my story to be an inspiration for other people” 
Story by Marcy Roberts


Philadelphia, PA – Willie Singletary, A.A.S., (Funeral Service) is an extraordinary student who has faced extraordinary life challenges. 

Born in Philadelphia, Singletary is one of 22 children and will graduate from the Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) Funeral Service program this month at the age of 41. With his excellent GPA, he has been selected as the Student Speaker for the Funeral Service program’s commencement.

Singletary has led a life with many unexpected twists and turns. He preached his first sermon at 7, became a licensed minister at 15, and was ordained a pastor in 2003. He is currently Associate Pastor of the Church of Christian Compassion under the leadership of Senior Pastor W. Lonnie Herndon in Philadelphia. He is a veteran and has raised two girls as a single father and has several grandchildren. He became the youngest judge in Philadelphia at the age of 26.  

When he was 33, after several years as a judge, he was embroiled in a ticket fixing ordeal and sentenced to 20 months in prison.

“I did 12 months inside a prison and six months in a halfway house, said Singletary. 

While Singletary acknowledges having made some bad decisions along the way, he is a strong believer in learning from the past.

“It helped me rediscover myself. I learned from my past to move forward so that I can be a better me,” he said.

Singletary credits his mother for being his “moral support cheerleader.” When he had a calling to be a funeral director, his mother encouraged him to follow his dreams.

“I decided on Mercer County Community College because the college had the program I wanted and it had a wonderful reputation for funeral service,” said Singletary. “It is a school with great professors.” 

“I started in the summer and took a few prerequisite classes and an anatomy class. Then my mother passed away suddenly,” said Singletary. “I was filled with grief, and I almost quit.” 

Singletary managed to forge ahead, earning excellent grades despite the subsequent death of his brother, his own health issues, and working a full-time job.

“My mom had encouraged me to go back to school when I was at my lowest point, so I pushed through it. I never used my situation as an excuse,” said Singletary. He explained that the required reading for his Funeral Service Counseling class at MCCC helped him to deal with his own grief. “I prepared and eulogized my mother as well,” he said. “I’m a momma’s boy.”

Singletary also credits the bonds he made with his professors and classmates as key to his success at Mercer.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience at Mercer for anything,” he said. “Assistant Professor Geralda Aldajuste was phenomenal with her lectures and fantastic with her presentations, and she pushed us to be the best we can be. There are a lot of classmates I became close with. We will be there for each other for the rest of our lives. I am the only African-American male in the class, but we worked together regardless of our cultural and religious backgrounds. With the unique experience that Mercer provided, and the fact that we are such a diverse group, we will surely be prepared for all experiences in life as we go forward.”

Aldajuste commended Singletary’s work in the classroom and considers him a natural born leader who thinks not only of himself but of his fellow classmates and those around him.

“He is very outspoken,” said Aldajuste. “He is a true gem any professor would want in the classroom.”

Singletary plans to open his own funeral home in Philadelphia.

“I want my story to be an inspiration for other people,” said Singletary. “What I can say is to always keep the faith and keep pushing forward.”  

To find out what it takes to succeed in the Funeral Service Education Program at Mercer County Community College read this Q&A 


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Willie Singletary

Mercer County Community College student Willie Singletary, A.A.S., (Funeral Service), is an extraordinary individual who has faced extraordinary life challenges.  With his excellent GPA, he has been selected as the Student Speaker for the Funeral Services program’s commencement on May 19, 2022.