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
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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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.