Pam Prather Rewrites Her Story at MCCC

'Mercer Made Me Feel Like I Could'


West Windsor, N.J. – Pam Prather ’12 (A.A., Psychology) of Trenton has learned how to be comfortable in her own skin. She says her journey of self-discovery began at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).

Prather recalls a tough childhood and a late start in life. She returned to school in her 30s, first earning her High School Equivalency from the Daylight-Twilight High School in 2008 and then completing her associate degree at MCCC in 2012.

When Prather started at Mercer, she was raising three children – and battling significant self-esteem issues. “It was so difficult for me at first,” she said. “I thought I couldn’t do it. Mercer made me feel like I could.”

Prather found a welcoming community at MCCC’s James Kerney Campus (JKC). “JKC was local for me. I developed relationships with a lot of people there,” she said, recalling faculty members Charles Stansbury (English) and Alvyn Haywood (Public Speaking) in particular. Former Assistant Dean Barbara Jefferson became a mentor and a friend, helping Prather gain the confidence to be successful.

“I thought my professors wouldn’t like me,” Prather noted. “Instead, I met people who embraced me, and I embraced them. My whole outlook changed. Within that supportive environment, I was able to blossom.”

In addition to earning excellent grades, Prather dove into college life. She served as president of the JKC Student Executive Council and was inducted into MCCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Psi Beta Honor Society (for students studying psychology). She delivered opening remarks for a town hall meeting with NJ Representative Rush Holt in 2011 and participated in NEW Leadership™ New Jersey, a residential summer program hosted by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University.

“All of these activities helped to grow my confidence,” she said. “Mercer got me ready for success in the real world.”

Prather also received a helping hand from the MCCC Foundation, earning the Ronald Kopcho Memorial Scholarship, awarded to high-achieving students studying psychology, as well as a general scholarship to help cover the considerable cost of textbooks.

These days, Prather draws on her hard-earned sense of self as a valued staff member in the mobile unit of the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission. Launched five years ago, the Motor Vehicles van travels throughout the state to assist seniors, veterans, and other residents with licenses, registrations, handicap placards, permits for first-time drivers, and the surrendering of license plates.

“We travel all over New Jersey – from the last stop before New York to way down in South Jersey,” Prather explained. “My co-workers have become like family.”

Customer service is key in Prather’s job. “I love my work. I enjoy helping people. They are from all different backgrounds and occupations. Veterans and the elderly share their stories. It’s a beautiful experience,” she maintained.

Prather is especially gratified by her customers’ reactions to the service they receive.  “People are often surprised at how pleasant and efficient the motor vehicles process can be,” she noted. “My goal is to see every customer go away happy.”

Prather’s three children are all grown up now, and she is a grandmother to four little ones. She reports that all are doing well, including her daughter, a member of the military who is currently deployed in South Korea.

“My journey was inspiring to her. We’re very close,” Prather said.

When she is not working or busy with family, Prather is continuing her academic journey at Thomas Edison State University, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

Prather is also the author of a children’s book, published in 2016, entitled Why Am I So Different? She says she was motivated to write it when her granddaughter was being bullied in school, an experience that stirred memories of her own struggles as a child.

“It’s a story about overcoming insecurity and having the strength to persevere through life’s challenges,” she explained. “My goal is to help young children embrace their unique qualities and discover that their potential is limitless.” (In the book’s acknowledgements, Prather thanks Professor Stansbury for his support.)

Before the pandemic, Prather visited the Trenton Public Library on Academy Street and Columbus Elementary School to read her book to students. She is still hoping to secure funding for wider distribution, with proceeds to go to Trenton’s children in need.

Prather maintains that none of her successes would have been possible without first working on herself. “If our foundation is cracked, it can become generational thing. You’ve got to deal with who you are," she said. "Then all of the relationships around you can begin to grow. I feel lucky and blessed.”


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Pam Prather (Class of '12) has worked for the NJ Motor Vehicles Commission since 2016.


Pam Prather, far left, with the Kopcho family. Prather was selected for the Ronald Kopcho Memorial Scholarhip in 2011.


Pam Prather (second from left) with other students inducted into the Psi Beta Psychology Honor Society in 2011. (Pictured with Psychology Professor Karen Bearce, far left).