N.J. - In an event that has come to exemplify the extraordinary
role of Mercer County Community College in the lives of so
many, MCCC's James Kerney Campus (JKC) recognized the accomplishments
of students at its 23rd Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement
at Trenton's War Memorial building May 10.
JKC Provost Monica Weaver welcomed an enthusiastic crowd.
"Tonight is for the graduates and also for the graduates
to thank their family and friends who have helped to make
their education possible." Citing the thousands of area
residents who have benefited from JKC programs, she noted,
"JKC is here to stay!"
Honorees included 60 degree students who started or completed
many of their courses at JKC, 32 students earning their GEDs
(High School Equivalency), 42 students completing programs
at MCCC's Career Training Institute, and 39 earning certificates
from the English Language Institute (ELI) for non-native speakers.
Twenty-five clients from Home Front and nine from the Trenton
Area Soup Kitchen, who received instruction at JKC satellite
sites, were also among those honored. Numerous students with
records of academic excellence were presented with scholarship
awards by the MCCC Foundation.
Four students spoke as representatives of their programs.
Adult student, Education major Paulette Wright-Parham, recalls
feeling "out of place, misplaced and displaced"
after being laid off from her job as an accounting supervisor
at a local newspaper. Now she is graduating with her associate
degree and plans to transfer to Rider University to get a
dual bachelor's/master's degree in Education.
Adult student Valerie Barnes also had a lay-off story. Out
of work after nine years at Sun Microsystems, she turned to
CTI to enhance and expand her technical skills, deciding to
add legal secretary to her list of credentials. "I hadn't
been to school for years and years," she noted. She started
paying closer attention to her writing and learned the latest
technology in the Microsoft Office Suite. When she landed
a new job as a documentation specialist at General Dynamics,
she said, "I started with real confidence. CTI helped
me believe in myself."
Speaking on behalf of ELI students was Maris Maryla Malissewska.
Having initially attempted to study art at Rider University,
she realized she needed to strengthen her language skills
first. "We ESL students don't speak perfectly, but we
want to change our lives, and the teachers at Mercer help
us to reach our goals," she said. Maliszewska recalled
her determined efforts to master English, which included carrying
a dictionary everywhere, watching American television, and
reading children's books. With her sights now set on returning
to Rider to study art and architecture, she hopes to one day
teach English to other non-native speakers. "I am thankful
for the chance to study my new language at Mercer," she
Representing the GED graduates was student Anthony Tillman,
who was finishing up his high school education after dropping
out in 11th grade. "Education is so important in today's
society," Tillman said. "Education doesn't just
stop when you graduate high school or get your GED diploma.
That's just the beginning of the road, but it's a big step
toward the future."
Three faculty members were recognized for going above and
beyond to help students: Assistant Biology Professor Linda
Gaylo, and her husband Christopher, who teaches for JKC's
Youth College, and Assistant Psychology Professor, Dr. Matthew
Keynote speaker for the evening was MCCC faculty member, Dr.
Eric Watson, who teaches English and African American History.
In his remarks he shared advice from his grandmother. "Don't
wait to be discovered and don't assume that doors are closed
to you," he advised. "Don't be afraid to take risks
or be criticized. It doesn't matter how many times you fall
down; it's how many times you get up. Be quiet enough so that
you can recognize the genuine in yourself and then you will
hear it in other people." He concluded by recalling the
words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., noting that while not
everyone can be famous, everyone can be great through service.
MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue had her own words of congratulationst
to add. "We are thrilled that you are graduating and
taking your place as productive members of Mercer County."
She told students to enjoy their success. "You've worked
hard and learned a lot. But after the celebration, continue
learning and never stop. You can always count on Mercer to
be your home."
Also participating were MCCC Associate Communications Professor
Alvyn Haywood and former Board Chair Rev. William Coleman.