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Alum Melissa Conklin Enjoys Busy Job as Administrator for
West Windsor-Plainsboro Community Education

1/14/13


West Windsor, N.J. - When Melissa (Csillan) Conklin ’93 (A.S., Communications) first enrolled at Mercer County Community College, she was unsure of her direction. But she knew she was a good communicator and so she decided to focus on those skills as a Communications major.

Once at Mercer, Conklins says she was increasingly drawn to the action and vitality of the classroom.  Two of her writing professors, Laura Knight and Jim Franklin, saw her as a natural for the teaching field. By the time she graduated, she had set her sights on a future that might include teaching, communications – or both.

She notes that MCCC was exactly the right choice for her.  “I studied at Mercer until I decided my future direction and then I moved on. I made important connections and had a chance to grow.  I always encourage people to go to Mercer first because it helps you figure out your next steps.”

Transferring to Rider University, she double-majored in Communications and Education and earned her teacher certification in elementary education.  After graduation, she was a kindergarten teacher at the YWCA Princeton, and also served as the director of the Aquatic, Dance and Gymnastics Camp at the Hamilton Area YWCA. For a time she worked in Admissions at MCCC.

In 2003, Conklin landed her dream job as the administrator for the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District’s Community Education Program.  She notes that her department offers something for everyone in the community – before-school and after-school programs at the elementary and middle school levels through the Extended Day Program (EDP), enrichment for children, kindergarten and preschool programs, summer programs, adult education classes and cultural trips.

It’s a big and challenging job, Conklin says, but one that she relishes. “I love what I do – working with students, families and the community," she says.

Melissa (Csillan) Conklin is the administrator for
the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School
District’s Community Education Program.

 

According to Conklin, the EDP serves 800 students in grades K – 8 and implements curriculum that directly correlates to the district’s strategic goals. Periodically she adds elements to the EDP curriculum that enhance students' learning.

As the supervisor of a staff of 50, Conklin works with site coordinators throughout the district on monthly calendars and themes. She also plans staff development and in-service training. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Supervision and Curriculum at Rider.

Conklin notes the Extended Day Program fills in the gap for children of working parents, including winter and spring break and summer programs. Special events include family nights such as Lights On Afterschool, Family Carnivals and Kids Night Out to raise money for the EDP Scholarship Fund. The EDP also provides opportunities for community service projects for students and staff, including Race for the Cure, Ronald McDonald House and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

A recent service project enabled Conklin to reconnect with her mentor and friend from her Mercer years, Athletic Trainer Lisa Camillone. Camillone’s daughter, Andrea, an MCCC sophomore and assistant in the after-school program at Grover Middle School, had been working with her mother to knit winter hats for those in need since last year. With Conklin’s support, Andrea enlisted her middle school students to help with the project by teaching them how to make the hats.  By Christmas, they had added 30 hats to the Camillones’ 100.

“This was a first for our students,” Conklin said.  “It’s an activity where they got to learn something new and do something for another child.  We are so pleased that Andrea [Camillone] got us involved.”

Conklin knows the value of formative experiences. Her first introduction to MCCC was as a counselor and swim instructor for Camp College. While attending Mercer, she worked as a lifeguard and in the Fitness Center, where she first met Lisa Camillone.

Conklin views Camillone as a key mentor.  “Before, while and after life at Mercer, Lisa gave me much insight on life, both personally and professionally.  To this day, Lisa and I remain close. She is considered part of our family," Conklin said.

In many ways, Conklin’s profession mirrors Mercer’s mission to improve lives through education.  “I am committed to the concept of community education, especially for youngsters,” she said.

Conklin currently serves as an ambassador for NJSACC, the statewide network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities, which promotes and supports the development, continuity and expansion of programming for children and youth during out-of-school time. She is a former NJSACC board member.


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