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MCCC's Resilient Class of 2018 Ready to Take on the Future


Carly Layton (A.A., Liberal Arts/Psychology)

Xiaoling Lin (A.S., Nursing)

Chris Molnar (A.A., Liberal Arts/Communication)

Aaron Stoelting (A.A.S, Funeral Service)

West Windsor, N.J. – More than 1,000 students are expected to graduate from Mercer County Community College (MCCC) on May 17. Each has a unique story, one that often includes challenges that make graduation day particiularly sweet for them and their families. Some grads will head directly to the workforce, while others will transfer for their bachelor's degrees to schools in New Jersey and beyond. The University Center at Mercer, which includes Fairleigh Dickinson, Felician, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers, and William Paterson, will welcome those who seek an affordable, convenient education right on the Mercer campus.

Diversity is the face of MCCC. Students of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and aspirations are united in their quest for a better future. We introduce just four of these special students, but know there are so many more stories to tell.

Carly Layton
Liberal Arts/Psychology

For Carly Layton, earning her associate degree is the first step in her pursuit of higher education. Layton will be transferring to William Paterson University on the MCCC campus to pursue her bachelor's degree in Psychology. She will be the first member of her family to transfer to a four-year school.

“I have been inspired by my professors. Their motivation and drive sparked something in me. I hope to teach one day at the college level,” Layton said.

Taking a year off between high school and college, Layton decided to enroll at Mercer because of convenience and affordability. What she has found is a second home.

In addition to excelling academically, Layton has taken student leadership to the next level. She has been a Student Government Association (SGA) leader, serving as the organization's president and as an SGA senator. She has volunteered for major fundraisers for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, American Cancer Society, Lone Star Community College Relief Fund, and Trenton Rescue Mission.

“There have been endless opportunities for me to build my leadership skills,” she said. “I could never have envisioned the kind of personal growth I have had at Mercer.”

Layton has truly appreciated the diversity at Mercer. “We are not just kids fresh from high school. There are adults with families who are returning to school. It makes our experience richer and more real,” she said.

Layton has pursued her degree by taking two or three courses each semester, but she has kept pushing forward – and giving back. “Mercer was a big first step. It has changed my life and I will be forever grateful. Mercer has not just been good. It has been the best.”

Xiaoling Lin
A.S., Nursing

Xiaoling Lin came to the United States from China in 2011. She had already earned a master’s degree in Chinese Literature in her native country, one of few women to have that opportunity in China. She decided to move to the United States to pursue bigger dreams than were available in her homeland.

Lin’s first job in America was as a waitress at Tiger Noodles in Princeton. A customer who became her friend suggested that Lin consider studying nursing. That was the nudge she needed and MCCC proved a sound choice both academically and financially.

Lin faced daily challenges as she pushed herself to succeed academically in a new language while continuing to work full-time at Tiger Noodles. When she earned her A.S. degree in Nursing in December, she immediately signed up to take the NCLEX nursing licensure exam and passed. She now works in elder care at Princeton Medical Center, as well as in pediatric home care. Lin also volunteers with the rescue squad in her hometown of Milltown.

Lin praises the nursing faculty. “I could write a book about how wonderful the professors are, every one of them,” she said, adding that she is very grateful for tutoring and other support services she found at Mercer.
Lin says her Mercer success has given her a newfound confidence. She is continuing for her bachelor’s degree through Rutgers University at Mercer.“I feel like I can do anything. I want to be a better person in this society. I want to make the world a better place.”

Chris Molnar
A.A., Liberal Arts/Communication

As Chris Molnar completes his A.A. in Liberal Arts/Communication, he recalls a personal journey that is vastly different from the one he envisioned for himself as a Marine recruit right out of high school.

Molnar had just completed Marine Corps Boot Camp and was at home on leave in December 2012 when he had a massive stroke. In 2013, at the age of 19, he received a heart transplant. His long road to recovery included a year of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center. In 2015, he was medically retired from the Marine Corps and was seeking a new direction.

Molnar decided to enroll at MCCC, where he discovered that direction. “I found that I loved public speaking,” he said. He has taken multiple radio and television classes and worked hard on his public speaking skills. He has spoken to many groups – from younger students, to veterans, to fellow students. Last year, he was interviewed on New Jersey 101.5 radio (WKXW).

Molnar says his Mercer experience has been just what the doctor ordered. “Classes are small and tuition is affordable. I received focused and personalized attention that enabled me to succeed. At Mercer, you are not just a number,” he said.

Molnar's unexpected detour has yielded many life lessons worth sharing. "Take life one day at a time," he advises. "Be prepared for challenges. One thing happens and then you are on Plan B or C. I am on Plan Q,” he observes.

After graduation, Molnar is looking forward to sharing his story with more audiences. “I want to motivate others to donate blood and to sign up to be organ donors,” he said, adding that he is also working on a book that is expected to be published next year.

Aaron Stoelting
A.A.S., Funeral Service

Aaron Stoelting admits that not everyone can do the work of a funeral director, but he knows it is the right path for him. Born and raised in the Midwest, he spent the first decade of his career in information technology, where he made a comfortable living. But he felt he was missing out on a career where he could help people.

He decided to become a funeral director and for three years was very fulfilled in his work at a Kansas City funeral home. Then he and his wife relocated to the Philadelphia area to be closer to her family and he found that his professional background was not sufficient to meet Pennsylvania requirements.

With so much background in the field already, Stoelting says he enrolled in MCCC's Funeral Service Program intending to “go through the motions” and quickly get the credentials he needed. But he soon recognized the program’s quality. “I learned things I didn’t know,” the 33-year-old said. “The faculty is very knowledgeable. All are working in the field.”

Stoelting was so inspired that he became president of Mercer’s student chapter of Sigma Phi Sigma, a national funeral service fraternity. During his tenure, the group hosted drives for charity and arranged for guest speakers. He himself freely offered advice to fellow students and presented talks about his professional background.

“I hadn’t volunteered in years. Mercer pushed me to do more. My Mercer education has helped me develop as a person,” Stoelting said.

A musician who earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Indiana, Stoelting continues to embrace his funeral service calling. “You are helping people cope with loss,” he said. “I am committed to providing services that are personalized for each family.”

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