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Youth College Participants Honored at MCCC’s Kelsey Theatre


WEST WINDSOR – More than 450 Trenton-area high school students were recognized for their hard work and academic achievements during the annual Youth College Awards Ceremony, held at Kelsey Theatre on Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) West Windsor Campus May 3.

The students honored are participants in the Educational Talent Search, SMILE/GEAR UP, and Upward Bound programs on MCCC’s Trenton Campus. Programs begin as early as sixth grade and continue through high school, and include after-school tutoring, summer programs, field trips, academic counseling, and college entrance exam preparation.

"You have reached farther, and as a result, you have learned more," Wayne Murray, director of the SMILE/GEAR UP program, told the students. "You are going to be winners, and you are going to succeed in our world."

Serving as emcees for the event were high school seniors Hana Sabree and Robert Ponton, SMILE/GEAR UP class of 2014, and Aluxes Brown, Upward Bound class of 2016. Sabree will be attending Kean University this fall, while Ponton will attend Montclair State University.

"SMILE/GEAR UP showed me education can lead to a better life," Ponton said. "With programs like this, I have learned so much. They support everyone who comes through the program."

"Upward Bound has opened many doors for me," Brown said. "Now I’m in a program where I can actually take a college course."

Youth College Graduates

Seventy-five high school seniors participating in Youth College are heading to colleges including MCCC, and many four-year schools.

Celestine Chukumba

Dr. Celestine Chukumba, a veteran of the technology sector, encouraged students to take risks and become leaders.

Keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Celestine Chukumba, who has worked in the technology sector for more than 13 years with some of the world’s largest financial firms. The son of immigrant parents, Chukumba offered his formula for success and encouraged the students to do likewise: don’t be afraid to lead, and take risks to get to where you want to be.

"Being a leader is important, as there are only two types of people: sheep, and shepherds," Chukumba said. “Each of you in this room is a leader. You may not think you are – you just haven’t taken enough risks yet.

"Now go out and conquer the world. Lead, take risks, and never look back."

This year 75 members of Youth College will graduate high school, with many going on to college at four-year universities, including The College of New Jersey, Rider University, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Montclair State, College of Saint Elizabeth, Kean University, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Johnson and Wales. More than 20 expect to begin their careers at MCCC.



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