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Dream to Serve Others Fulfilled at MCCC for Alum Joann Mia


West Windsor, N.J. - If lives read like resumes, you might see a straight upward arc to success for MCCC alum Joann Mia '05 (A.A., Humanities and Social Science) of Trenton. In truth, though, Mia's life has been full of stops and starts. Fortunately, the starts have won the day and, at the age of 65, Mia continues to evolve academically and personally.

Given her own trials, Mia firmly believes that if she could pull herself up, then so can her neighbors. "Passing on my enthusiasm for learning and for turning around the lives of others has become my objective. My education has been geared toward this goal," she says with conviction. Mia notes that her job as the coordinator for the Richardson Learning Center at Mercer's James Kerney Campus (JKC) is a perfect fit, allowing her to oversee support services that maximize student success.

Mia recalls literally growing up in the shadow of JKC. "Our third floor walk-up overlooked the school parking lot. As a typical city youth gazing out my back window, I had no idea how close I was to my future success."

Joann Mia

A single mom, Mia earned her GED in the early 1970s. Her first attempt at attending college at Mercer was in 1978, but it lasted only one semester. Derailed by personal and family issues, it was 20 years before she returned to MCCC's James Kerney Campus - but this time it was for real.

"I was not a traditional student. I did not even consider myself socially appropriate for an environment of higher learning. But I wanted to change. I wanted to succeed," Mia says.

She started studying in JKC's Career Training Institute and completed her Legal Secretary Certificate under instructors Karen Zeigler and Delores Elaezer in 1999. "These ladies still remain my heroes," she says. Upon completing the CTI program, she was awarded credits for three college classes and she was on her way, matriculating into MCCC's Liberal Arts Division's Humanities/Social Studies program while working part-time in the JKC Library.

Mia graduated in 2005 with her A.A. in Humanities and Social Science and was named to the Dean's List numerous semesters. She also earned certificates as an addictions specialist in 2005 and as a drug/alcohol counselor in 2006.

Mia credits two JKC staff members, former Provost Beverly A. Richardson and former JKC Bursar Jeremy Parry, with helping her believe in herself. "They worked on me like sculptors with a lump of clay," she recalls. "Eventually I emerged and knew in my heart that it is okay to be me."

Mia notes the satisfying irony of sitting in the coordinator's seat at the Richardson Learning Center, which stands as a testimony to Beverly Richardson's years of hard work and of mentoring students just like her.

Prior to her post in the Learning Center, Mia worked as a financial aid officer at JKC, managing services in conjunction with the West Windsor campus, serving as the financial aid liaison to the Trenton public and alternative high schools, and distributing financial aid information at community and off-campus recruitment events.

Mia also continued to pursue her academic goals. She transferred to Rider University after Mercer, earning her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education/American Studies in 2007 and passing the Praxis exam for her K-8 teacher certification. She worked on her master's degree simultaneously online through Thomas Edison State College, completing it in Liberal Studies that same year, with a concentration in Leadership and Organizational Management. She now teaches Mercer's College Success Seminar for entering freshmen.

Mia may have gotten serious about academics later than some, but she is continuing her education far longer than most. Having worked with the urban recovery community for years, including clients at Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities and the Rescue Mission of Trenton, Mia celebrated her 65th birthday in early July by completing her certification as an addictions and drug counselor through the National Association of Addiction Professionals.

"These markers of achievement along the way reinforce my desire to continue on the journey. My destination is still unknown, but, as they say, it is the journey not the destination," Mia says. She has told her grandchildren - all seven of them - that she will not stop learning "until the letters behind my name stretch across the page."


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