On Dec. 21, cheerful applause and a slow walk across the stage will mark an important milestone for John Paul Tolomeo. After working shifts in sales and marketing at a tech company, attending classes and working part-time as an investigator at his father's detective agency, he will be the fourth person in his family, following his father and two uncles, to complete an undergraduate program at Temple University.
"It's like tying my family back together," Tolomeo said.
Tolomeo, KLN'17, hopes to secure a position in tech sales while producing hip-hop music after graduation. "I'd love to spread my art and inspire others but you can't do that without investing in yourself," he said.
Tolomeo realized early on that he needed a degree in order to reach his goals. He obtained an associate degree in communication from Delaware County Community College, but soon after struggled with gaining employment.
"I didn't realize I needed a bachelor degree until I actually tried to get a job in marketing," said Tolomeo. He began his time at Temple in the spring of 2016 and took no time off, enrolling in both summer one and summer two courses.
Majoring in advertising with a concentration in account management, the South Philadelphia native has successfully used what he learned in school to launch a rap career under the pseudonym Willow Way. He has gained almost 10,000 followers on Instagram and over 2,000 on Soundcloud, a music and podcast streaming platform.
He extended his marketing abilities to his peers through an artist collaboration. The creation of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, a talent group consisting of rappers, producers, musical engineers and creatives.
"I learned how to market my art through my advertising classes at Temple, they opened the door in my eyes," said Tolomeo.
Although he has plans to invest in his rap career and pursue technology sales, his priorities lie elsewhere.
"I want to be successful in whatever I do but I still want to help my father out wherever I can," Tolomeo said. "It's just for the family."