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MCCC’s Top Grads in the Spotlight at Honors Convocations


West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) recognized its top-performing graduates at the annual Honors Convocation that preceded commencement on May 22. More than 100 students received academic awards and scholarships, presented by MCCC faculty and administrators in full regalia before family and friends at Kelsey Theatre.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Generals welcomed the honorees. "I am pleased to see so many of our accomplished students and their families gathered today to celebrate their hard work and success," he said and then introduced Mercer's 2013 Distinguished Teacher awardee, Ornamental Horticulture faculty member Amy Ricco, who served as mistress of ceremonies.

MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue and Board Chair Gwendolyn Harris also congratulated the graduates and the spouses, parents and children who have supported these exceptional students in their efforts to achieve.

Alumna Melody Hicks and graduating student Marlene Cooper shared remarks about their experiences at Mercer and expressed their gratitude towards donors who helped make their education possible. Hicks, who now attends The College of New Jersey and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Accounting, said, “Many people who supported me are on this stage today.  Scholarships show that people believe in you. Strive on and chase your dream.”

Cooper will continue her education at Rutgers with the goal of becoming a math teacher.  “Because of Mercer, I now feel like I will be an asset to any educational institution, to my students, and to my community…Keep taking chances and believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will either,” Cooper told her peers.

A number of students were recognized for being the first members of their families to earn a college degree.  One such student, Radiography graduate Nicole Zapata, was honored to receive the Mallinckrodt Award of Clinical Excellence.  Zapata noted that her success came from a lot of hard work and the support of her teachers and her husband.

Returning adult student Gina Acuna, who earned the Administrative Professional Outstanding Achievement Award, said that she returned to college to enhance her job skills.  “I found that all my professors were very committed to our learning.  This degree will help enhance my performance at my current position at Johnson & Johnson as a senior administrative assistant.”

Ana Corrales earned the Samuel Willig Memorial Scholarship for Advertising Design. Corrales began her studies in the ESL program at Mercer and went on earn her associate degree with distinction. While at MCCC, she volunteered as a mentor in the DREAM Program, The Art Gallery and Graphic Design Club.

Some of the college's scholars received multiple awards.  Plant Science major Michael Torres was the recipient of awards from the Garden State African Violet Club and the Rocky Brook Garden Club, as well as the Distinguished Teaching Award. Torres will continue his education in environmental science at Rutgers University, with the goal to conduct research.

Shane Wojciechowski was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award in Music and the James Kelly Scholarship. During his time at Mercer, Wojciechowski discovered his passion for musical composition. He was a founding member and first president of the Psi Beta Psychology Honors Society and a founding member of the Music Club. He will transfer to Temple University to pursue his bachelor's degree in Music Theory.

Criminal Justice grad Erica Benedetti received awards for academics and athletics. A two-year member of the Vikings softball team, she was selected for Outstanding Achievement in Criminal Justice and for the Arthur Forman Sportsmanship Scholarship. Benedetti was named to the Garden State All-Conference Academic Team and the NJCAA Region 19 All-Region Academic Team. She will attend The College of New Jersey as a Criminology major.

Business Administration graduate Amanda Kleinmann, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, was the recipient of the Abrams Foundation Scholarship, the Albert B. Kahn Foundation Scholarship and the Fred Anker Memorial Scholarship.  While at Mercer, Kleinmann led a major food drive at MCCC to benefit Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and served as a mentor for two students in the DREAM Program. Kleinnmann will transfer to Rider University to study Business Management and Sociology.

Honors Program student Michael McNulty, who studied both Mathematics and Physics, was one of two students to earn the Professor Betty Wallace Cornelius Mathematics Excellence Award, presented by her husband, Jeffrey Cornelius.  (The other was Marlene Cooper.)  McNulty served as president of the Mercer Mathematics Club and was a Research and Development Council of New Jersey Merit Scholar who conducted research in plasma physics at Princeton University.  He plans to pursue his study of physics to the graduate level.

Derrick Antwi received the Human Relations Award.  Antwi has worked part-time as an MCCC security officer while attending college. According to his supervisor, Commanding Officer Michael Flaherty, he has been a dependable employee who interacts well with the public.  Earning his associate degree in Liberal Arts, he is transferring to Rutgers University.

Faculty coordinators of Mercer’s Honors Program acknowledged 23 students who graduated with a Mercer Honors Program designation, signaling their high level of performance in intensive seminar-style classes. This group represents the largest number of Honors Program graduates since the program’s inception in 2007.

Also among the honorees were 10 members of Alpha Theta Gamma, MCCC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, 10 NJ STARS graduates, 11 new members of the Alpha Mu Gamma National Collegiate Foreign Language Society, and 20 students who were selected for Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges.

Alumna Melody Hicks, who serves as the
alumni representative on the college's
Board of Trustees thanks donors and
faculty members who believed in her.
Multiple award winner Amanda
Kleinmann with her mom, Susan, a 1982
MCCC alumna following the ceremony.

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Administrative Professional graduate Gina Acuna is pictured
with MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue, Vice President
for Academic Affairs Guy Generals, Dean of Business Winston
Maddox and Business faculty member Kristen Callahan.
Radiography graduate Nicole Zapata celebrates her award
with, from left, Vice President Donald Generals, faculty
member Sandra Kerr and President Patricia C. Dohonue.
Plant Science graduate Michael Torres received three awards.
He is pictured with Vice President Donald Generals,
faculty member Amy Ricco.
Music major Shane Wojciechowski is pictured with,
from left, Vice President Donald Generals, Dean of
Liberal Arts Robin Schore, Professor James Kelly
and Board of Trustees Chair Gwendolyn Harris.

Criminal Justice graduate Erica Benedetti with, from left,
Executive Dean Diane Campbell, Foundation Board member
Jeffrey Callahan, and Trustee Chair Gwendolyn Harris.
Michael McNulty with donor Jeffrey Cornelius. Also pictured
are, from left, Vice President Donald Generals, Dean of
Liberal Arts Robin Schore and Board Chair Gwendolyn Harris.
Derrick Antwi with, from left, Vice President for College
Advancement Ed Gwazda, Vice President Donald
Generals and President Patricia C. Donohue.
Advertising Design grad Ana Corrales with Dean of Liberal
Arts Robin Schore and faculty member Tina LaPlaca.
PTK graduates, second from left to right, Celina Fanik, Fabiola Pincay, Michael McNulty and Timothy Pitonyak are pictured with President Patricia C. Donohue, far left, PTK Advisor and Professor of Physics Jingrong Huang and Board Chair Gwendolyn Harris.
MCCC Honors graduates filled the stage at this year's
Honors Convocation, marking the largest number of
Honors grads since the program's inception in 2007.