West Windsor, N.J. – Faculty and staff at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) are used to employing all possible resources to help students succeed. When students work right alongside the staff to accomplish that goal, good things happen.
Thanks to the enthusiastic input of MCCC’s five-star Alpha Theta Gamma chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, the college was able to reach out more effectively to the student body about the importance of early registration and Gov. Murphy’s new free tuition program for community college students (known as the Community College Opportunity Grant program).
According to adviser Dr. Jingrong Huang, last semester, chapter members met with MCCC administrators to get suggestions for a service project that would help to address college priorities.
“We got two assignments: promotion of early registration and promotion of the state’s free tuition program,” Huang said. “In carrying out the projects, the PTK students applied a lot of what they learned at PTK leadership conferences.”
Chapter officers carefully planned their outreach activities, including training volunteers. They distributed flyers, posted to social media, shared their message at faculty meetings, presented in their respective classes, and volunteered at an enrollment table in the Student Center. They were similarly active in the community, where they reached out to family and friends, posted flyers at schools and libraries, and even contacted a Trenton soccer league. The chapter’s vice president of scholarship, Victoria Fredrick, presented at the Historically Black Colleges Fair.
Fredrick received national recognition for her efforts this year. A graduating Nursing student, she was selected from more than 2,000 applicants as a 2019 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar. The program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation with additional support from PTK International.
According to PTK co-adviser Gina Migliaccio, “Students who apply for the Coca-Cola Scholarship are evaluated on academic achievement, leadership, service, and significant endeavors. Victoria received the highest score in the state of New Jersey.” The award comes with a $1,250 scholarship and recognition at the Association of Community College Trustees’ (ACCT) 2019 Leadership Congress in October.
Fredrick, who also serves as secretary for the Mercer chapter of the National Nursing Honor Society, maintains that her role as PTK's vice president for scholarship is very meaningful.
“I benefitted from getting scholarships," Fredrick said. "They helped me and my family. I want to pay it forward. These opportunities should be open to everyone.” Fredrick will graduate in May with both of her daughters, one who is a Nursing student like her mom, and the other wo is studying to be a teacher. Fredrick will pursue her B.S.N. through the Rutgers-Camden Nursing program on the MCCC campus.
MCCC President Jianping Wang commended all the students for their efforts. “I am very proud of this partnership with our PTK students. Without them, we could not achieve our goals.” To date, close to 200 MCCC students are receiving state funding to cover tuition costs, making Mercer a leader in the Governor’s program.
Newly elected PTK officer Thomas Lillja embraced this project and other PTK challenges. “PTK is all about hard work, service and having an impact at the college and in the community. It was great to reach out and raise awareness with our peers,” he said.
Lillja observed that when he first joined PTK in January of 2018, he felt overwhelmed. “Now I feel like I have developed the skills to take on the world.”
Lina Garcia serves as the chapter’s vice president for communication this year. A Spanish speaker with an excellent command of English, she puts her language skills to work on campus and in her community, serving as a translator for international students and others for whom English is a second language.
“It is gratifying that our projects have had a meaningful impact,” she said. “I promote MCCC and the benefit of PTK membership whenever I can.”
Last summer, a group of Mercer PTK students played a pivotal role as co-hosts of PTK's Middle States Regional Leadership and Honors Institute at Rider University, organizing hospitality events for more than 400 participants. In addition to Fredrick, Lillja and Garcia, other Mercer participants included Christopher Batty, Simone Beukes (chapter president), Charles Dubell, Maria Fayyaz, and Zehra Kazi.