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‘World Awaits’ as Scholarship Recipients Share Their Stories and Aspirations with Donors at MCCC Honors Recognition Luncheon


Thirteen students benefited from scholarships raised through MCCC's Spring Into Student Success annual gala. They are pictured with, fourth from left to right, Foundation Chair Lori Danko, MCCC President Jianping Wang, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes and Board of Trustees Chair Carol Golden.

From left, Upward Bound's Stacy Denton, scholarship recipients Ayssatu Keita and Madison Miller, Sharon Davis, Eloise Wilson, andSusette Jackson, representing the Trenton Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and President Wang. (Not pictured: scholarship recipient Kyra Mims.)

From left, Foundation Board officer Bob Humes, Freeholder Scholarship recipients Melanie Quezada, Joshua Skula, Rodolfo Lopez Portela, and Brennan Jasperse, and President Wang. A total of twenty students received these scholarships to begin their education at Mercer.

Culinary students proudly display their new chef's whites, courtesy of the generous support of area restaurants food service companies. (Twelve students in total received Chef Jacket Partnership Scholarships.)

From left, a happy day for donor Susan Colavita, instructor Kerri O'Neill and Fine Arts Student Aslin Gonzalez-Laureano (James Colavita Memorial Scholarship and Esther Spallone Scholarship.)

From left, Board member Yasmin E. Hernandez-Manno and President Wang, with Albert B. Kahn Foundation THS scholars Ashly Vega, Cesia Guadron, Leslie Jaquez, Tia Jones and Jamira Bennett, and Assistant Vice President for Academic Operations Robert Schreyer. The Kahn Foundation awarded 23 scholarships to high-achieving Trenton High School graduates.

Mercer Professor Emeriti Association Scholarships were awarded to nine students. Seated from left are Skye Waters, Mathew Alfano, Tyler Waltimyer, Michelle Arbelaez and Jasmin Rodriguez; back row, from left, Vice President for Academic Affairs J. Brandon Shaw, Foundation Board Chair Lori Danko, Professsor Emeriti Association representatives Tom Wilfrid and Jane O'Reilly, and President Wang.

West Windsor, N.J. – There were smiles and handshakes all around as the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Foundation brought together grateful students and the donors who are funding scholarships to support their academic success. The annual MCCC Honors Recognition Reception was held Oct. 10 at Mercer Oaks.

The event’s theme, “The World Awaits You,” reflected the excitement and sense of possibilities that were evident throughout the luncheon ceremony. Freshman Tia Jones, who received an Albert B. Kahn Scholarship to start her education, is planning to study nursing. “It’s very motivating to get this scholarship. I want to go and get it done,” she said.

In total, the college recognized over 200 scholarship recipients who are distinguishing themselves academically and as active members of the MCCC community. Close to 30 community and corporate donors joined their students for the celebratory event. Each table featured a “passport” story of about a successful MCCC alumnus.

MCCC President Jianping Wang welcomed the approximately 150 guests. She noted that scholarship support is an essential ingredient for student success. “Mercer is the passport to the future. Today donors can see how their generosity truly has a positive impact on so many lives – and the future of our community. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds but all share common strengths: a desire to learn, a willingness to work hard, and the hope for a brighter future. Scholarships put the wind under their dreams so that they can take off,” she said.

The master of ceremonieswas Ed Gwazda, Executive Director of MCCC Foundation. “This event provides a special opportunity to acknowledge distinguished achievement and service. That goes for our students, donors and the community members who support Mercer,” he said as he acknowledged the numerous Foundation Board members and MCCC Trustees in attendance.

Nursing student Kamila Grace received the Jeanne Boegemann Memorial Scholarship. (Boegemann was an alumna of the Nursing program.) Grace was grateful to meet Steven Boegemann, who established the scholarship in his wife’s memory. “We need more well-trained, caring nurses,” he said.

Grace is passionate about the nursing field. “I studied Special Education, but realized that helping people in the healthcare setting was the choice for me. My heart is right for it. The scholarship is very helpful. It was a welcome surprise,” she said.

Fine Arts student Aslin Gonzalez-Laureano received two scholarships: the James Colavita Memorial Scholarship and the Esther Spallone Scholarship. Sitting with Susan Colavita, sister of the late James Colavita, a beloved member of the MCCC Fine Arts faculty, Aslin observed that the event was a welcome opportunity to express her appreciation. “I was going through a rough time when I applied [for scholarhip support]. Receiving these scholarships was validation for me when I really needed it,” she said. Colavita, who never misses the annual event, said the chance to meet Aslin was simply “wonderful.”

Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) student Kourtney Kane said her scholarship from Roma Bank was life-altering. With two children, the older of whom was about to start at MCCC this fall, she knew she could not continue her own PTA studies at the same time. “I would have had to put off my own schooling in order to pay for my daughter’s tuition,” she said. “With the scholarship, I am able to attend full-time and be fully focused on getting my degree.”

Freshman Leslie Jaquez, a Business Administration student who received an Albert B. Kahn Scholarship, had already earned six MCCC credits while she was still in high school. “I am proud to be a Mercer student. It’s challenging and I work hard. It was the best feeling ever to receive a scholarship. Now I feel like someone has noticed me,” she said, adding that she hopes to "one day follow in my donor's footsteps and change someone’s life like Mr. Kahn did."

Twelve restaurants and food service companies participated in the long-standing scholarship partnership with MCCC’s Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management program. Funds cover the costs for students’ chef’s whites and other college costs. This year's participating businesses include Agricola, Elements, Ergo Chef LLC, Firmenich, Gretalia Restaurant Group, Griggstown Farm, Meri-Makers Catering, Mercer Oaks Catering, Nassau Inn, Sysco Foods, Terra Momo Group, and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

A special video was shown to the crowd, highlighting seven students whose lives have been changed through scholarships. One was PTA student Vincent Chassey (’19), the recipient of the Dr. Paul Janssen Memorial Scholarship. Chassey, who works two jobs and has a family, said he would thank Dr. Janssen every day if he had the chance. “It means the world to me. The money definitely helps with tuition. But, really it’s more than that. It’s the confidence, the nudge in the back that says to keep on going because it’s the right thing that you are doing.”

Also featured in the video are: Jane Nchunkeh (’18), a Computer Science graduate who received the Jim and Fannie Floyd Scholarship; Jonathan Cohen (’18), who earned degrees in Aviation Flight Technology, Computer Science and Mathematics, and received the Robert Sydney Needham Memorial Scholarship, the Edward H. House Memorial Scholarship, and the Professor Betty Wallace Cornelius Endowed Scholarship; Monissia Roberts (’19), a Nursing student who received the Jeanne Boegemann Memorial Scholarship; Zuri Pierce (’19), a Communication student who received the Trenton Boys and Girls Club PNC Scholarship; Jennifer Eng (’18), a Business Administration graduate who received the Fred Anker Memorial Scholarship; and Aslin Gonzalez-Laureano (’19), noted above.

This year, the Foundation is providing more than $500,000 in direct support to students. Scholarship recipients are from practically every discipline of study at the college and include entering freshmen, continuing students, and those preparing to graduate who will use the funds at their transfer schools.

In addition to private contributions, the MCCC Foundation raises scholarship funds through two signature fundraising initiatives: the MCCC Golf Classic, which is held in the fall to benefit student athletes, and the Spring into Student Success benefit gala, to be held this spring at Stone Terrace in Hamilton.

MCCC Foundation

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