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MCCC Student Earns Associate Degree Just Six Months After High School Graduation
DATE POSTED: Monday, January 9, 2012 11:11 AM EST
By Candace Zafirellis

West Windsor, N.J. – Eighteen-year-old Paul Jones of Hamilton was able to graduate from high school and Mercer County Community College all within the same year, thanks to a program at MCCC called “Jump Start."  After graduating from Steinert in June, Jones earned an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts with highest honors in December.

According to Jones, making the decision to pursue college courses while still in high school has proven to be the best one he's made so far in his life.

Approaching his senior year, Jones had already taken most of the advanced placement classes offered at his high school, so he began to consider taking courses at MCCC.

"Mercer was five minutes from my house and the tuition was reasonable," he said, adding that Mercer's plethora of courses proved key to his decision. "Mercer just had the best overall program for me."

Jones enrolled in his first class, Introduction to Philosophy, in the summer of 2010. "The course proved electrifying and pivotal in my being at MCCC," he recalls.
After his initial success, he enrolled in two additional courses in the fall: Anthropology and Introduction to Sociology. By the spring of 2011, he was taking a full course load at Mercer while finishing up his senior year of high school.

"That was the best time of my life," Jones maintains. While he didn't sleep much, having a full day of enriching and challenging courses was "intellectually satisfying."

One of the most memorable courses Jones took was Honors Fantasy Literature with English Professor Ed Carmien. "It was absolutely wonderful. It was my first taste of what to expect in college."

When Jones initially enrolled at Mercer he had already been accepted to St. John's College, a Liberal Arts school in Annapolis, Md. But once he started taking classes at Mercer, he realized the value of obtaining a degree with real world applications. While taking a Java Programming course taught by adjunct instructor James Slocum, Jones made the decision to major in Computer Science. "Professor Slocum was so influential in my decision. His passion for his topic and advice about education persuaded me."

In addition to computer classes, Jones' other courses included American Political System, Intro to Psychology, Public Speaking, Living World Religions and Moral Choices. He was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society and Mercer's newly formed chapter of the Psi Beta National Honor Society in Psychology.

"I was really able to get a wide range of courses at Mercer. The college served as a proving ground for developing my liberal and technical education," he says proudly.

Jones took several classes that didn't count towards his degree simply for the sheer joy of learning. He graduates from Mercer with 20 credits to spare.

Jones is continuing his education at Rutgers University in January, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Philosophy. And, he will continue to be part of the NJ STARS program, a statewide scholarship program for students who graduate in the top 15 percent of their high school class.

Jones said he may even return to Mercer for a summer course. "If I ever see a calculus class offered by Professor Yvonne Greenbaun, I will definitely enroll. She was a very inspiring instructor. I learned a lot from her."

Jones sees MCCC's Jump Start program to be an amazing opportunity for high schoolers to earn college credits, while at the same time exploring the subjects that interest them most.

"MCCC is truly what you make of it. If you're looking for a rigorous course of study, Mercer is where you should be," he said.