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Two MCCC Students Make New Connections at
Rutgers Leadership Program


7/8/10


West Windsor, N.J. - What are the qualities of an effective leader and how does one develop leadership skills? Pam Prather, of Trenton, and Shelly Djoufack, of Princeton, both students at Mercer County Community College, were among 33 female college students from across New Jersey who recently explored these questions during NEW Leadership™ New Jersey, a residential program hosted by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University June 10-15.

Prather, a 39-year-old mother of three who was born and raised in Trenton, and Djoufack, a 19-year-old international student from Cameroon who plans to become a doctor, came to the CAWP program from distinctly different backgrounds. But both say they developed a new appreciation of politicians and the political process, as well as recognition of their own potential for leadership.

Among the group's activities were political discussions, public speaking activities, group projects, a visit to the State House, and meetings with a Who's Who list of powerful New Jersey female politicians. Leaders who addressed the students included NJ Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, State Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, Camden Mayor Dana Redd, and former Corzine aide Michellene Davis, now the senior vice president for policy development and government affairs for St. Barnabas Health Care System.

According to Prather, the message of these women was clear. "They emphasized that we are equal to our male counterparts. Women can be just as assertive and effective," she says.

Djoufack recognized the way these assertiveness skills can be useful every day. "I have learned that politics has an impact in everybody's life and that you do not have to be a politician to be a leader. Everyone has leadership potential."

Both women acknowledge that the RU experience changed their view of politicians. Prather says she gained a newfound appreciation for these public servants after attending a legislative session at the State House where issues such as cell phone use while driving and background checks for employees who work with children were discussed. "Some politicians really are for the people. Every day there are issues being fought for us," she observed.

The group's capstone project allowed them to practice leadership through action. Taking on a variety of roles, each student contributed to a mock legislative debate on renewable electricity standards, part of a growing movement to develop a cleaner, more sustainable national energy supply. Djoufack conducted research on the issue that was utilized by students on both sides of the discussion, while Prather assumed the role of State Senator Lisa Murkowski, learning volumes about a topic she had never before considered and weighing in with her colleagues based on Murkowski's own voting record.

According to the Mercer women, the program was a real confidence builder. Djoufack, who serves as secretary for MCCC's International Student Organization, was particularly glad to practice her public speaking skills, while Prather loved meeting the diverse group of participants from two- and four- year schools, who ranged in age from 19 to their mid-fifties. "I really connected with some awesome women. I made friends for life," she said.

Prather also came to better understand her potential to contribute as she moves forward. Having overcome many obstacles to return to school as an adult, including an abusive home environment, she has come to recognize her survival skills and her late blossoming as a student.

"We learned more about who we are and how we can make a difference - whether it's in politics, the community, or even in our own families as role models for our children," she said. Prather hopes to one day give back to other women who find themselves in situations of domestic violence that mirror her own past.


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MCCC students Pam Prather, left, and Shelly Djoufack
at the Rutgers leadership program.
Prather practices public speaking skills at the State House.
The CAWP leadership group at the State House.
Djoufack is pictured fifth from left and Prather is pictured far right.
Djoufack and Prather listen intently during a presentation.
Prather, fourth from left, takes the role of Lisa Murkowski
during a mock legislative session.