Lady Dr. Jill Biden Leads "Community College to Career"
Panel Discussion at MCCC on March 28
Windsor, N.J. - Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady and wife of Vice
President Joe Biden, led a panel discussion at Mercer County
Community College (MCCC) on Wednesday, March 28, to highlight
the unique role of community colleges in preparing students
for the workforce. Her visit to Mercer was part of her "Community
College to Career" tour.
Dr. Biden has almost three decades of experience as an educator,
18 of those years at a community college. She currently teaches
English at Northern Virginia Community College. "Not
only can community colleges change lives, they can change
America," Dr. Biden said. "I always say my students
are my heroes; you are the American dream."
The Second Lady was accompanied by Seth D. Harris, the Deputy
Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor. He joked fondly
that on their way to the event Dr. Biden was in full teacher
mode, with a bag of papers to grade for her English class.
Mr. Harris traveled with Dr. Biden to New Jersey to advocate
for community college partnerships with employers who offer
on-the-job training, an initiative entitled, "Community
College to Career." In February, President Obama announced
a new $8 billion Community College to Career Fund to further
this effort that began last year.
Biden is one of the most important people in the White House
to have as an advocate," said Mr. Harris, adding that
community college enrollment has doubled since the recession.
"Community colleges started bursting at the seams when
workers lost jobs and quickly realized they must enhance their
job skills in order to get back into the workforce."
Dr. Biden surprised her Mercer County audience by revealing
that she has roots in the state. "New Jersey is a special
place for me," she said, noting that she was born in
Hammonton while her mother was visiting her grandparents.
She also spent part of her childhood in Mahwah, and waitressed
at the Jersey shore as a teenager.
The panel discussion featured alumni and employed students
from MCCC, Raritan Valley Community College, Essex County
College, and Brookdale Community College, along with their
The event was held in the MCCC Culinary Center, a growing
MCCC program with an excellent job placement record. Raoul
Momo, co-owner of the Terra Momo Restaurant Group, works directly
with Mercer's culinary programs to provide work experience
and jobs at his four restaurants in the Princeton area.
"We've been in business for 30 years and have found that
you need so many skill sets in order to have a successful
restaurant," said Momo. He noted that training MCCC students
while they are still in school enables him to have a skilled
staff as soon as they graduate. "This partnership with
Mercer has been a true success story for us."
Frank Caponi, who completed Certificates of Proficiency in
Cooking and Baking at Mercer in 2010, now works as a chef
at Momo's Mediterra Restaurant. "The classes here at
Mercer are wonderful. This program is probably the best in
the state, if not the country," he said.
Current MCCC student Maryam Rowneki faced multiple challenges
when she came to the United States from Afghanistan in 1999.
A third grader at the time, she had to begin her education
in kindergarten classes because she did not speak English.
Jill Biden described her experience as a community college teacher
for the past 18 years, noting the diverse student body that
is served by community colleges.
the event with Dr. Biden, third from left, are, from left,
Deputy U.S. Labor Secretary Seth Harris, Mercer County Executive
Brian Hughes, MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue, and MCCC
Board members Robert DiFalco, Pam Hersh and Chair Mark Matzen.
from left, inlcuded Maryam Rowneki, Marsha Lynch, Laurie Kavanagh,
Cathy Palmer, Frank Caponi, MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue,
Dr. Jill Biden, Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, Raoul
Momo, June White, Regina Johnson-Matos, Christopher Robshaw
and David Scheider.
alum Frank Caponi, a chef at Mediterra Restaurant in Princeton,
spoke about how well the MCCC Culinary program prepared him
for his job.
time Rowneki reached high school, she was volunteering at
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, after recognizing
her desire to work in the health care field. Now, she is employed
as a pharmacy technician at CVS through the company's Career
Prescriptions for Success program (CAPS), a partnership with
MCCC. "The CAPS program has helped me pay for summer
classes, books and transportation," she said.
Marsha Lynch, CVS area manager, explained that the program
allows students to attend school full time while working 25
hours a week at CVS stores. "The students have learned
a lot of time management skills," she said.
For Christopher Robshaw, enrolling in community college proved
the perfect training solution for his career of choice. After
attending a four-year college for two years without a clear
direction, he spent a summer working in the HVAC field and
knew it was the career he had been looking for. Robshaw enrolled
in the HVAC program at Raritan Valley Community College, where
he received individualized attention and job skills - and
a job with Service Experts in Manville, NJ. Seventy percent
of the company's employees trained at Raritan, which received
a major federal grant to put people back to work in the field.
Other panel attendees were Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes,
MCCC Trustees Mark Matzen, Pam Hersh and Robert DiFalco, Larry
Nespoli of the N.J. Council of County Colleges, college presidents
William Toms of Brookdale and Edythe Abdullah of Essex, Trenton
Mayor Tony Mack, and West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, as
well as MCCC students, administrators, faculty and staff members.
MCCC President Dr. Patricia C. Donohue served as mistress
of ceremonies. "Our mission as a community college is
to provide education and training that prepares students to
be qualified, productive employees. We serve students of all
ages and at all levels and provide learning opportunities
for them to realize success," she said. "We are
honored to be part of the 'Community College to Career' tour."
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