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Criminal Justice Alumnus Matthew Pittore Credits MCCC with Pathway to State Park Police Career


Pittore on patrol in one of New Jersey's State Parks.

In 2008, Pittore was recognized by the Criminal Justice Program for academic excellence during Honors Convocation prior to commencement. Presenting his certificate is Program Coordinator Cavit Cooley, who played a key role in Pittore's academic trajectory.

West Windsor, N.J. – New Jersey’s State Park Police Force patrols more than 422,000 acres – 56 parks, forests and recreation areas. Seventeen million people visit these places each year.

Working to keep them safe are officers like Mercer County Community College (MCCC) alumnus Matthew Pittore ’08 (A.S., Criminal Justice). For the past four years, he has patrolled the entire state of New Jersey – from the mountains in North Jersey, to the Pinelands and the Jersey Shore.

“New Jersey has beautiful and diverse geography. I love that my career has allowed me to travel, explore and safeguard so much of the state,” he said. Recently, Pittore was selected to become a Field Training Officer, where he now plays an active role in training new officers. The New Jersey State Park Police Department includes a detective bureau, a specialized K-9 division, and marine and high angle rescue units.

Pittore says that reaching his career goal in state law enforcement began at Mercer. He chose MCCC primarily because of the outstanding reputation of its Criminal Justice program. Enrolling at Mercer as an adult student at the age of 23, he had delayed college because he first resolved to serve his country. As a senior at South Hunterdon Regional High School, he decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps immediately following graduation in 2001.

He shipped off to Paris Island for basic training shortly after the events of Sept. 11. “Of course I couldn’t have foreseen the terror attacks of 9/11.  After the attacks, I knew that my time in the Marines would be during a time of war but I was not discouraged. I was proud to serve my country and would do so again if called upon,” Pittore said.

Reaching the rank of lance corporal and being honorably discharged in 2005, Pittore was ready for the next stage of his journey – a college degree and civilian career. He says Mercer gave him the solid academic start that has led to a job he loves.
A resident of Lambertville, Pittore notes that MCCC’s affordable tuition rates made a big difference to him as a young military veteran. His part-time sales job at a local sporting goods store also helped to pay the bills.

As if he wasn’t busy enough with a full class schedule and a part-time job, Pittore joined the Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad, where he volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician. He later became the Emergency Medical Service Captain and became a member of the squad’s Board of Trustees. (He continues to serve in multiple roles with the squad.)

But Pittore never lost sight of the big prize – getting his college degree. “I had plenty of late nights studying and writing papers. I even had my fellow rescue squad crew members listen to my presentations as they were awaiting emergency calls,” Pittore recalled.

All the hard work paid off in 2008 when Pittore, a member of MCCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, earned his associate degree and was selected for special recognition at the college’s Honors Convocation.

Pittore observes that his tenacity was one of his key motivators.  “Academic goals do not come easily, but most worthwhile endeavors are achievable for those who are willing to put the work in,” he said. “I used my stubbornness to consistently apply myself to my studies.”
Pittore offers strong praise to his MCCC professors, who helped him master difficult subject matter and provide support at all the right times. “The professors at Mercer are some of the best educators around. Across all departments, I found that they are extremely professional and dedicated to the success of their students,” he said. “If you take your education seriously, they will go to great lengths to assist you and guide you toward success.”

Professor Cavit Cooley, Coordinator of MCCC’s Criminal Justice program, made an indelible difference in Pittore’s life. “Professor Cooley was the one who, without a doubt, had the most impact on my career trajectory. He assisted in my transfer to The College of New Jersey [TCNJ], where I was able to earn my bachelor’s degree.”

Pittore recalled that even though TCNJ was his first choice for transfer, he did not think he would be accepted because he had never taken the SATs (due to his direct enlistment into the military). “I thought I did not meet the admissions requirements,” he said. “But when I discussed it with Professor Cooley, he picked up the phone and called TCNJ Admissions. He found another way for me to begin – as a non-matriculated student. Then, if my GPA was high enough, they would admit me into the college. I had a chance because of Professor Cooley.” Pittore received his BS in Criminology from TCNJ in 2010.

According to Pittore, his experience at Mercer put him on the pathway to success. “The education I received was outstanding. Many of my professors had experience working in the field, allowing them to share real life lessons. I have been able to carry many of those lessons into my professional career.”

Pittore wants current and potential Mercer students to know that opportunities are what you make of them. “You get out what you put in,” he said. “Put in the time, work hard and stay focused. You will be rewarded by reaching your goals. Life after Mercer holds infinite possibilities.”

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