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Mercer County High School Students Share their Voices in MCCC’s Aspirations Arts Journal


West Windsor, N.J. – It’s an annual tradition for Mercer County Community College (MCCC), but it never gets old – especially for nearly 150 high school students whose literary and artistic work has been published in Aspirations 2014, MCCC’s literary arts journal for teens.

On April 10, the college welcomed students, families and teachers from eight area high schools for a recognition ceremony, where they received complimentary copies of this year's journal. 

Addressing the crowd at Kelsey Theatre, MCCC Associate Professor of English Nicole Homer, who serves as Aspirations’ editor, said, “You deserve a platform for your work. We are proud to publish your stories, poems and artwork. You are making your voices heard.”

MCCC President Patricia Donohue also congratulated the students. “This accomplishment represents your commitment to your own learning," she said, adding that teachers are an important part of the process. "Because your teachers challenge you, you are a step ahead in the learning curve.”

To highlight the thought-provoking material in the pages of Aspirations, MCCC Theatre students Lydia Balogh, Paloma Burr and Richard Ward selected several works to read aloud. One poem, "Strong Female Characters," by Kate Fletcher, a senior at Hopewell Valley Central High School, captures the reflections of women at various stages of life, concluding with: "...A strong female character/Who is tired of being told what 'strong' is/Grew up being told to fit in a box/Wants to be allowed to have flaws, wishes/ Everyone could see that strong female characters are people."

Hopewell Valley English teacher Tery Solomon says the publication truly lives up to its name. "Aspirations inspires students' best efforts. Having the opportunity to see their work published in a physical -- not virtual, not digital -- publication is a wonderful incentive. We say we want students to read and write, to experiment and invent, and Aspirations showcases those who actually do. It's a wonderful venue that celebrates our high school writers and artists. "

Solomon notes that many parents have confessed to her that they treasure the high school publication where they were first published. "The students published in Aspirations will always remember that someone valued their work enough to invest in its publication. That affirmation is inspiration," Solomon said.

According to MCCC's Dean of Liberal Arts, Dr. Robin Schore, project director for Aspirations, the publication is more than 30 years old and continues to be a powerful way for young people to explore their creative sides and have an audience for their work.

Hopewell Valley Central High School students featured in Aspirations, front row from left, Cassie Lieu, Jaime Owens, Felicia Luo, Maya Naphade, Andrea Pfaff and Jared Polomski, with MCCC Dean Robin Shore; back row from left, English teacher Tery Solomon, Barbara MacGuigan, Tom Dorsett, Kyla Chasalow, Astrid Hunter, Ethan Jeffs, Caelin Murphy and Okey Obedike.
Richard Ward, one of three MCCC Theatre students who participated in the ceremony, presents a reading from the journal.
The MCCC Hospitality Club served snacks for teens and their families. Pictured are, from left: students Regina Dripps, Ray Montero, Lamar Allen and Nick Sanders. Chef Frank Benowitz is second from right.

Due to the large number of submissions, this year's publication was divided into two books, one for written work and another for artwork. The 2014 edition includes 71 written entries and 67 drawings and photos. 

High schools represented this year are Allentown, Hamilton West, Hightstown, Hopewell Valley, Lawrence, Nottingham, Steinert and the Lawrenceville School.

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