News at MCCC
spacer spacer

MCCC’s Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration Concludes with a Resounding Beat


A vibrant Latino beat filled Kerney Hall, courtesy of panelist Mariano Medina, right, and his mentor from Trenton Central High School, Tim Robinson.

"You can make the change happen," said Rodriguez, who attended MCCC in the 1970s and is now a Trenton councilman after a fulfilling career working in social services for the county and the state.

From left, Dean Barbara Jefferson, panelists Mariano Medina, Luis Estrada, accompanist Tim Robinson (back), and Santiago Rodriguez, and staff members Victoria Beltra, Stefanie Williams, Angelica Ayala, and Samuel Kanig.

The buffet featured Latino favorites.

The lunch got a "thumbs-up" from students.

Trenton, N.J. – During the closing ceremony of Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) Hispanic Heritage Month celebration on Oct. 15, students and staff packed Kerney Hall at the James Kerney Campus to hear the stories of three Hispanic Americans. The panel discussion was entitled “Being Latino” and was moderated by MCCC staff member Samuel Kanig.

One of the panelists, professional musician Mariano Medina, amped up the energy in the room as he and fellow musician Tim Robinson performed a spirited percussion duet.

Medina, who was born and raised in Trenton, realized in high school that music was his passion. His thriving career as a Latin jazz and salsa percussionist has led him to the big stage, including Madison Square Garden, and other venues where he has played with Grammy Award-winning artists.

He still spends time in Trenton and looks for ways to give back to his community. Robinson was once his mentor at Trenton Central High School. “He kept my head in the music where it needed to be,” Medina said, encouraging students to believe in themselves. “Trust what you don’t see.”

Also on the panel was Luis Estrada, a former culinary student in MCCC’s Career Training Institute. He was introduced by MCCC chef/instructor Jorge Maldonado. Estrada recalled taking English as a Second Language classes at MCCC after moving to Trenton from Guatemala more than a decade ago.

Working as a dishwasher and then a cook in a local restaurant, Estrada attended college at night. He is now a sous chef at King George II Inn in Bristol, Pa., where he works long, but fulfilling days. “And when I get off, I spend good time with my family,” he said.

During his years as a student, Estrada recalls a tough balancing act that included family, school and working in the college’s Center City Café. “But hard work and education always pay off. And I am doing a job that I love. That’s something students need to hear.”

The third panelist was Trenton Councilman-at-Large Santiago Rodriguez, who was elected in May. Attending MCCC in the 1970s, he recalled Mercer as a great beginning. After serving in the military, he completed his bachelor’s degree at Temple University and then earned a master’s degree in Counseling.

Santiago first went to work for the Mercer County Board of Social Services and then for the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services.

While he never aspired to political office, Rodriguez came to recognize that the best politician is someone who knows his community and wants to look after his community. Running a campaign on a shoestring, his message was “Don’t let politicians run the community. We are the community.”

Rodriguez urged students to get involved and give back. “From MCCC, you can make change happen,” he said.

The discussion was followed by a luncheon in the Center City Café, served by MCCC staff members. The menu featured pork and chicken dishes, rice and beans, plantains and other Latin favorites.

Additional Hispanic Heritage Month activities included Latin music and salsa dancing and several documentaries that were shown on both campuses. Thanks to the planning committee for the closing ceremony: Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Barbara D. Jefferson, Vicente Erazo, Stephen Waniak, Angelica Ayala, Jennifer De Los Santos, Danielle Garruba, Vanessa Reyes, Samuel Kanig, Victoria Beltra and Stefanie Williams.

Return to Current News

MCCC Home Page