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MCCC Alum Share Success Stories at
JKC's "Male Alumni Forum" on March 29

4/5/12


West Windsor, N.J. - Students and faculty gathered in Kerney Hall on the James Kerney Campus (JKC) on Thursday, March 29 to celebrate the accomplishments and hear powerful words of wisdom from male alumni of Mercer County Community College (MCCC). The "Male Alumni Forum" was hosted by the Division of Student Affairs and moderated by Terrence Carter, counselor specialist, and Ariel Matos, coordinator of community outreach for the college.

"I'm elated that we have this star-studded group of men that has walked through Mercer's hallways," said Barbara Jefferson, assistant dean of enrollment and student services at JKC. Jefferson was personally acquainted with some of the speakers, having served as their advisor when they were Mercer students.

The six guest speakers included a corporate manager, a small business owner, an officer with the County Sheriff's Department, a Trenton housing manager, an NJ Transit director and two MCCC adjunct professors. "They're here as concrete evidence that this can happen for you," said Dr. Guy Generals, MCCC's vice president for academic affairs.

"Mercer is the place where it all started for me," said Fabio Iucolino, a business services manager at Firmenich and an adjunct professor at Mercer. "You come to a point in your life where you lack something and that something is an education," he said, noting that his first job was at a pizza restaurant. He credited Barbara Jefferson for working with him to create a flexible schedule so that he could earn his GED while working full time. Now, Iucolino has an MBA from Rider University.

Alum Pedro Medina came to the U.S. from a dairy farm in Puerto Rico at the age of 12. After high school, he started college at Rider University and soon realized he wasn't ready for a four-year school. "One thing Mercer did was help me believe in myself," said Medina, who currently works as an undersheriff for the Mercer County Sheriff's Office. "The staff at Mercer are here because they care and they understand what their students are going through."

Javier Cubano was a cook in high school, and didn't think about the importance of preparing for the future. "I didn't see ten years down the road. I only thought about today," he said. Once he decided to apply himself, he excelled at Mercer, earned his bachelor's degree, and completed his law degree at Rutgers Camden. Currently he is an adjunct professor. He notes that the most important lesson he learned at Mercer was giving 100 percent to his education, an approach that has been key to his success.

Harry Luna, an immigrant from Guatemala, has been the owner of a video production company for 25 years. He recalled that he was unable to get a job before studying at Mercer in the 1980s because of his language barrier and lack of education. "You're always going to have obstacles and challenges in your life," said Luna, adding that spending an extra hour each day reading or studying was what put him on the road to success. "Half the battle in your life is knowing what you want." Luna said he realized his dreams after his father told him he had the choice to work at someone else's business, or reap the rewards of being his own boss

MCCC was an unexpected choice for Aaron Watson, but proved a great start. After high school, Watson first headed to a small college in North Carolina on a baseball scholarship, but decided it wasn't a good fit. Despite some life obstacles, Watson went on earn 84 credits at Mercer, graduating in 1982 with an A.A. in Humanities and Social Sciences. "It all happened because I had people who refused to see me fail."

Now, with a 20-year career with NJ Transit, he is the director of Mercer County Transportation and Infrastructure and is taking night classes to earn his master's degree. "Whatever I'm doing, where I go, I keep in mind that I am representing Mercer," he said.

Alum Mel Weldon is the manager for the Trenton Housing Authority. A stellar high school athlete, he was recruited to play basketball at Mercer in 1972 under legendary coach Howie Landa. In his very first year at Mercer, Weldon led the team to its first national title, a feat it repeated the following year. Weldon was named the 1973 National Player of the Year.

But basketball wasn't the only place where Weldon was successful. He also applied himself academically. "It was all about the education. Mercer is a step up for a whole lot of guys. It may take baby steps, but you have to continue on. You have to do your part to apply yourself." Weldon has continued a tradition of excellence in basketball. He is the current men's coach at Trenton Catholic Academy, which won the Mercer County Tournament in February.

 

 

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Participants included, back row, from left: panelist Mel Weldon, moderators Ariel Matos and Terrance Carter, JKC Asst. Dean Barbara Jefferson, and panelists Pedro Medina, Fabio Iucolino and Aaron Watson; front row, from left: MCCC's Jose Fernandez and Jacob Eapen, panelists Harry Luna and Javier Cubano, and MCCC Vice Presidents Dr. Guy Generals and Dr. Mellissia Zanjani.
Asst. Dean Barbara Jefferson, front right, was credited by several panelists as being the kind of caring staff member who made a difference in their success.
Mel Weldon noted, "It's all about education."
Javier Cubano began to take his education seriously once he realized it was his pathway to success.
Aaron Watson succeeded despite numerous obstacles. He credited the caring people in his life and learning important life lessons.
Event moderators Terrance Carter, left, and Ariel Matos had encouraging words of their own for the audience.