NJ - It was an evening filled with success stories - of students
committed to their education and getting the job done to complete
a degree or certificate program, often in the face of major
obstacles. Mercer County Community College's James Kerney
Campus celebrated the achievements of close to 150 students
at a spirited event on May 8 that brought graduates together
with MCCC administrators, fellow students, family and friends
at Patriot's Theater in the Trenton War Memorial.
to JKC Provost and Dean Monica Weaver, 45 students who started
or spent most of their time at the Trenton campus have earned
their associate degrees, 27 are graduating from Mercer's Career
Training Institute, 15 have earned certificates from the English
Language Institute, and 57 are earning their GED high school
equivalency, 19 of them from HomeFront, a shelter for the
homeless of Mercer County that partners with MCCC.
Said MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue, "You have performed
and achieved - maybe more than you thought you could. We will
always be here for you as you seek more challenges. Count
on us as your support system."
Adding his voice to the chorus of well-wishers was Mercer
County Executive Brian Hughes, who said, "It's one of
the most important events for the city and the county. You
have reached what you came here to do and have not stopped
trying, even though life sometimes gets in the way. You should
be proud." MCCC Communication Professor Alvyn Haywood
served as Master of Ceremonies.
Special guest speaker was Trenton businessman and community
volunteer Tracey Syphax. Owner of Capitol City Contracting,
which he established in 1995, Syphax drew on his powerful
personal journey. "Mine is an unlikely success story,"
he said. An ex-offender, Syphax recalls that people gave him
little chance for success, but he proved them wrong. "I
started out with one small truck and did small jobs. But then
I got more clients and I kept my eye on the prize. I turned
my roofing company into a contracting company."
Syphax encouraged students to explore possibilities and embrace
life's journey. "A world of unlimited opportunities awaits
you. Seize them and be excited about the future." He
also advised graduates to give back to their community. "Mentor
a child. As the tide rises, all boats rise."
Representing the degree graduates was Kalyse Beckett, who
earns her associate degree in Nursing (and completed a second
degree in Liberal Arts, majoring in Sociology, in December
2011). A single mother of a five-year-old son, she first focused
on nursing for its employment potential. She has grown to
love the field, due in part, she said, to her inspiring instructors.
While her multiple roles as student and mother proved diffciult,
she said, "Failure was not an option." Taking four
years to complete her program, she emphasized that her hard
work and dedication have paid off. She has also made many
friends among her peers, a group she believes will remain
close as these new nurses venture into the nursing field.
Career Training Institute grad Tammy Henigan is proud of earning
her certificate in PC Applications. Laid off from her job,
she knew she needed to bolster her skills and jumped at the
chance when she was referred to the CTI through the Mercer
County One-Stop Center. Acknowledging she could only type
a little bit at that time, her instructor pushed students
"to keep typing until those fingers know where to do,"
she recalled. Also helpful were job search seminars that advised
students about resume writing, and interview skills. Henigan
now works for a large medical group in Princeton.
Representing the graduates of the English Language Institute
was Alejandro Lazaro, originally from Guatemala. An adult
student, Lazaro said, "It's never too late to seek out
opportunities in life. That's one of the things that I really
like about America. Everyone has a chance."
Carmen Hayes spoke on behalf of the GED graduates. Having
had her four children at a young age, she noted that she never
had the chance to finish high school - until now. "Education
was not a priority, but I made sure it was for my children,"
proudly noting that all four completed high school and college.
"When I decided to go back, it was to motivate my grandchildren,"
Hayes said. "It's never too late to achieve." She
said she plans to continue her education with the goal of
becoming a pharmacy technician.
MCCC Foundation Board member Kristi Sells, an invited special
guest, added a celebratory note as she proclaimed, "I
am blessed and excited to be here. I am a former high school
English teacher and now I am an employer, so I know how important
education is." She held up a brick that is part of the
Alumni Association's "Paving the Way to Excellence"
program and explained that the Foundation is donating funds
for the engraving of bricks as a lasting tribute to the accomplishments
of GED graduates. "Your name will forever be on Mercer's
campus," Sells said.
Two JKC employees were selected by students for special service
awards: JKC Counselor Terrence Carter, who has helped students
organize numerous special events in the past year, and Christine
Reed, who works in the Accounting Office at JKC. "Students'
lives are changed because of your presence," Dean Weaver
graduates' acceptance of their certificates of achievement,
Provost Weaver concluded the ceremony with stirring words
that were met with cheers and applause. "Education is
the most powerful weapon you have to change the world. Let
your light shine brightly."
Provost Monica Weaver welcomed all. "This is both
a night for the graduates and for all those who have
provided the support for them to succeed."
photos, visit MCCC's Facebook photo album here.
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