Honors Student Breianna Pettis Chose MCCC, Now Columbia University Has Chosen Pettis

Written by Marcya Roberts


West Windsor, N.J. –  Talented. Thoughtful. Patient. Those are just a few of the terms that describe Mercer County Community College (MCCC) liberal arts student Breianna Pettis.

And now Pettis can add the term “Ivy Leaguer” to the list. Pettis will start the Fall semester at New York City’s Columbia University.

An MCCC Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honors student, Pettis was recently accepted at the Columbia School of General Studies, Columbia’s college for nontraditional students who want to earn a degree while attending full- or part-time. Pettis plans to concentrate on creative writing and minor in African-American studies. She is one of three transfer students from MCCC who will be embarking on an Ivy League education in 2020. And, she is one of the few to be accepted at Columbia.

“No one is more deserving of this acceptance,” said Victoria Bowman, Pettis’ success coach. “She took advantage of opportunities to challenge herself; and the persistence, hard work and grace under pressure that Brei has shown is remarkable.” Bowman continued, “Working with her has been one of my greatest joys. Every time that she stepped into my office, she brightened my day.”

Pettis, who was born in Trenton and raised in Lawrence Township, arrived at MCCC in the Fall of 2018 at the age of 24. “I always loved school but I took a break because I really couldn’t afford to take the traditional path,” said Pettis. “At the time I was worried about loans and stuff so I said to myself that I am just going to wait.”

So, after graduating from Lawrence High School, Pettis waited patiently for the right time. But not idly. In the meanwhile, she secured a job with Apple retail teaching coding to children and adults.

“My job is fun,” said Pettis, “But I am a writer and poet and I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t being stimulated. I missed the environment of school and meeting other students and teachers and just challenging myself in that way.”

When the time was right, Pettis turned to Mercer. “I wanted to go to Mercer because it was close to my job and it would fit my lifestyle. I could go at my own pace and that was the most important thing.”

Pettis’ love of English and writing began to develop at a young age. When she was 12 she wrote her first poem about her favorite singer, Rihanna, for a class assignment. Thereafter, she carried around a notebook so she could jot down poems and other writings until she graduated from high school. “I would write stories to continue books that I’d read that I didn’t want to end,” she recalled.

Her English teachers in high school encouraged her and commended Pettis on her writing talent so she “…stuck with what I was good at,” she explained.

Although Pettis loves poetry, especially the works of E.E. Cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni, as well as the idea of being in New York City immersed in a community of poets, in the future she ultimately sees herself as a screenwriter for television. She plans to keep her job as a trainer with Apple, but relocate to a store in Manhattan.

“When I graduate with my bachelor’s degree,” said Pettis, “I will be going for my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. I definitely see myself working on a screenplay and hopefully writing a book in line with what I learn.”

She explained that along the way she has had so many friends and teachers in high school and at Mercer County Community College support and believe in her that she wants to give back somehow.

“Part of the reason I am studying English is that I want to pay it forward,” said Pettis. “I wouldn’t be the writer that I am and the creator that I am without all the English teachers I had. I want to pay it forward and give experiences to kids and let them know that if you want to be a writer you can do it too,” she said.

Pettis described her affinity for MCCC and said that she will miss the people who helped her — especially her professors and success coach.

“I don’t think the township of Mercer County does enough to mention Mercer County Community College as a viable option,” said Pettis. “I am so grateful for Mercer and particularly for professors like Nicole Homer who worked with me not only in class but also throughout the college application process to sharpen my creative writing skills. I am also grateful for Victoria Bowman my success coach because I don’t know if I would be on the path that I am now. She encouraged me to do both English and creative writing at the same time… and she let me know about the honors program.”

“To me,” Pettis said, “MCCC was like a second home.”





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pettis breianna

MCCC Honors Student Breianna Pettis will start the Fall 2020 semester at the Columbia School of General Studies in New York City. 

Bowman and Pettis

Success Coach Victoria Bowman (left) with MCCC Alum Breianna Pettis at Mercer County Community Colleges 2019 Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Induction Ceremony.