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MCCC Graduates in the Spotlight

5/16/14


West Windsor, N.J. - Each year, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) graduates a large and diverse group of students, some of whom have overcome significant challenges to earn their college degrees. The college wishes one and all a life of success and fulfillment as we prepare for MCCC's 2014 Commencement, which takes place Thursday, May 22 at 5:30 p.m. on the West Windsor campus quad.

Here are a few stories of students who have made the most of their time at Mercer.

Benedict Petraitis
Trenton, NJ


This year's student speaker for Commencement is Ben Petraits, an Honors student and a U.S. Air Force veteran who was deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and the Global War on terrorism. He has received numerous Medals of Commendation and Achievement from the United State Air Force. 

In 2012, at the age of 42, Petraitis decided to use the GI Bill to attend college.  Having witnessed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and drug and alcohol abuse among his fellow veterans, he decided he wanted to major in Psychology with the goal of becoming a counselor in a Veterans Administration hospital. This fall he will transfer to William Paterson University at Mercer to earn his bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

Petraitis is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and is treasurer for the Psi Beta Honor Society for Psychology students. Petraitis tutors peers and assists fellow veterans. He is a member of the Alliance of Veterans and Supporters of Veterans.

Petraitis says that he found Mercer faculty “unbelievably helpful,” adding that MCCC faculty, along with his fellow students “have transformed my life.”


Angelica Ayala
Trenton, NJ

Angelica Ayala is a first generation college student who has had great support from family, but had to block out the negative feedback from others who said she would not achieve her college goals.
 
Earlier this month, Ayala served as the representative for degree-earning students at the Trenton Campus’s Celebration of Academic Achievement.  “I thought it would be impossible to attend college, but here I am on the doorstep to accomplishing that goal. Mercer was the best choice I could have made.  It allowed me to grown into the person I am today,” Ayala said.

Ayala earns her associate degree in Liberal Arts and plans to transfer to either Jersey City University or the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.  She hopes to own her own jewelry business one day. She has worked as an administrative assistant in the Enrollment Services Office at the Trenton Campus, where she has regularly used her bilingual skills to assist students.  She is a talented artist and jewelry designer.


Marlene Cooper
Lawrenceville, NJ

Marlene Cooper worked in retail management before the economic recession.  After coming to MCCC, she fell in love with the education field, especially Mathematics.  Her goal is to become a math teacher.  She is this year’s recipient of the Professor Betty Wallace Cornelius Mathematics Excellence Award.

Cooper is the president of Mercer’s chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Education Honor Society, and past president of the Future Teachers Club.  She served as a mentor for the DREAM program, which provides opportunities for students with learning disabilities.  She says that experience helped her decide to go into teaching.

Cooper volunteers in the Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Resource Center, located on the MCCC campus, and this semester organized a Violence Against Women Awareness Day that featured special guests from Womanspace. 


Amanda Kleinmann
Ewing, NJ


Amanda Kleinmann is an Honors Program student who serves as president of Mercer’s NJSTARS Club.  In addition to her academic success, she is a socially conscious student who organized a food drive for the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in the fall, working closely with faculty and administration to collect over 800 lbs. of food.  Kleinmann has also served as a mentor for the DREAM program, assisting students with learning disabilities.

Kleinmann says that Mercer’s affordable tuition made it possible for her to take a wide variety of courses, including sociology, which she connected with instantly.  She will attend Rider University in the fall, where she will double major in Business Management and Sociology.  She will also get back to a sport she loves – pole vaulting!  She hopes to run a nonprofit organization one day. 


Fabiola Pincay
Trenton, NJ


Fabiola Pincay says she had always planned to go to a four-year college, but in the end, chose Mercer for its affordability.   While it all started because of money, after two semesters, she chose to stay for the experience. 

Last year Pincay completed a prestigious internship at the Hamilton-based Genesis Biotechology Group, where she worked on a project investigating the roles of tumor suppressors and oncogenes.  This year Pincay served as president of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.  She was one of two top-performing MCCC students selected to the 2014 PTK All-State Academic Team.

Pincay studied both biology and chemistry at Mercer and will transfer to Rutgers for her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry.  Her eventual goal is to earn her doctorate.


Bryan Steward
Ewing, NJ


Bryan Steward began at Mercer expecting to limit his time on campus strictly to the classroom.  A friend encouraged him to join the student radio station, and before long he branched out to the Student Government Association (SGA). 

Currently he serves as SGA secretary and works in the Student Activities office.  He has helped to organize a wide variety of events and projects that have benefited the college and community.  Steward is a Communications major and will transfer to The College of New Jersey.

According to Steward, Mercer surpassed all his expectations and he, in turn, surpassed his expectations for himself.  He advises students to step outside their comfort zone and make the most of opportunities offered to them.  “They can turn you into a leader,” he says.

Student speaker for Commencement Ben Petraitis
Angelica Ayala
Marlene Cooper
Amanda Kleinmann
Fabiola Pincay
Bryan Steward
 


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