Trenton, N.J.: Cheers greeted each award recipient at Trenton's War Memorial theatre on May 11, when the James Kerney Campus of Mercer County Community College hosted its Celebration of Academic Achievement. Receiving awards and recognition were students who completed both credit and noncredit programs at the downtown Trenton campus.
Forty-two associate degree graduates began their studies at the James Kerney Campus or took most of their classes there. Fifty-three graduates of the Career Training Institute completed programs in office administration and culinary arts. There were 94 graduates of the GED preparation program (General Equivalency Diploma), and 44 graduates of the English Language Institute, who come from more than 20 countries.
Keynote speaker for the event was MCCC Vice President Don Generals, who emphasized lifelong learning and achievement. “Never give up,” he said. “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Dr. Generals also spoke about social justice. “In my world, education and social justice are synonymous – are opposite sides of the same coin.”
Four successful students, one from each of the programs, spoke about how MCCC changed their lives. Representing credit programs was Linda Barlow of Trenton, a social science major whose goal is to continue at Rutgers for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. After some rocky years, Barlow earned her GED and decided to try college. “I had a professor that took an interest in me,” she said. “For some reason she saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself... She taught me to stop coming to her with my problems but to come to her with a solution to my problem.”
Adult student Denise Etcheverry, who completed an office administration program with the Career Training Institute, represented her peers. She is employed by the US Census. “Thanks to the confidence gained at CTI, I accepted a supervisory position, something I avoided my entire working life,” she said. “So far I am enjoying it, and think I may actually be good at supervising. Who knew! When the census work is over, I will pursue a career in bookkeeping, a new passion discovered during my schooling at CTI.”
Speaking for the English Language Institute was Lilian Yax, a single mother of four who came to the U.S. from Guatemala 14 years ago. She attended classes with help from family members, and while working overnight hours in a warehouse. Her goal is to become an auto mechanic.
Devina Peterson, who earned her GED, said, “This experience has enlightened my view of the surrounding world. It has opened my mind up to thinking independently and most importantly, I’m a very confident woman today. Now I know how important it is to further your education. It is a completion of onesself.”