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MCCC Board of Trustees Welcomes Community to Open House and "Live" Report to Community


West Windsor, N.J. – The Board of Trustees Open House and Report to the Community on Nov. 15 gave Mercer County Community College a chance to showcase all it has to offer – and that’s a lot.

Mercer welcomed close to 200 prospective students, their families and community friends, as faculty and staff presented information about academic programs, students services, extracurricular clubs, and cultural offerings. The event also gave the Board of Trustees a chance to recognize three community partners who have engaged with the college in special ways.

Current adult student Milagros Maldonado brought her daughter Dominique to the open house. A Human Services major, Maldonado says she wants her daughter, a junior at Ewing High School, to think ahead as college approaches. Dominique says she is definitely thinking about her future – teaching math is one possibility. “I am considering my options.  Mercer will be a good place for me to explore what I want to do,” she said.

Retired Hamilton Police Lieutenant Gene Walker brought his younger son Justin, a senior at Steinert High School, to learn more about the Criminal Justice program from Professor Cavit Cooley. “Our older son is studying Criminal Justice at Mercer now, so we know the quality of the program,” Walker said. Justin says he is interested in completing his Mercer degree and then joining the military.

West Windsor resident Elliot Wasem did a general tour of the display tables. “I have friends who have gone here,” he said. “I am thinking about getting my prerequisites at MCCC and then transferring on.”

New Yorker Vikash Pandey traveled to Mercer to learn more about the Radiography program, getting the scoop from Assistant Professor Bill Petrosky.  Originally studying computer science, Pandey has decided to switch majors and has found that the number of Radiography programs in the region is limited. “It’s a very competitive field. I am applying all over. I am glad to have this chance to learn about Mercer’s program,” he said.

Alumna Barbara Vees, who graduated from the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program in August, staffed a table with PTA Program Coordinator Barbara Behrens. Vees was a happy camper, having found out just hours earlier that she had passed the national certification exam, originally scheduled to take place the Tuesday after Hurricane Sandy. Behrens notes that jobs in the field are plentiful. Vees, who is seeking part-time employment, is currently choosing between two offers.

Fashion Design student Shannon Brown staffed a table with Fashion Program Coordinator Allegra Ceci. Brown says she is thrilled to be in on the ground floor of MCCC’s new Fashion Design program. “This is definitely going to be my career. I have a book full of drawings.” Brown said, noting that currently the class is small. “We are like a family.”

Also among the visitors was high school senior John Yoffredo II, a baseball player interested in playing in college while pursuing his career goal to be a physical therapist. Attending the event with his parents, he spoke with Assistant Director of Athletics Ryan Zegarski. “At Mercer, freshmen can get right out there and play a full schedule,” said Zegarski, who coaches women’s softball. Zegarski invited Yoffredo to come back to Mercer in March to watch the Vikings play.

Special highlights of the event included Theatre students performing selected scenes from “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a production presented in November. Arts and Communications students showcased their work in a 10-minute video created by Assistant Professor Barry Levy. The Biology display featured tanks with snakes, millipedes and a tarantula. Biology Teaching Assistant Patrick Natale noted, “We keep them in the Biology Lab. Science can be a hard subject to tackle.  Freshmen are sometimes intimidated. Our ‘pets’ draw students in and gets them hooked,” he explained.

Culinary students had visitors lining up to sample their signature dessert, Bananas Foster, while student chefs from the Career Training Institute at the Trenton campus manned a carving station. The Conference Center staff added to the array of refreshments with hot hors d’oeuvres, crudité and dips.

There was a break in the action as the Board of Trustees turned the spotlight on three community honorees. Receiving the Alumni Leader Award was Ayo Johnson ’93, executive director at Westminster Community Life Center in Trenton. Johnson noted that she had originally planned to stay at Mercer for only one year, but got such a great education that she stayed to earn her associate’s degree, and then continued her education for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Rider. She says, “I am advocate on behalf of the college. I have a staff member who started working for me without his high school diploma.  I pushed him to get his GED and now he is in his first semester at Mercer.”

Accepting the Partner in Learning Award was Tremaine Harrison, acting director of education for the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission, whose mission includes the reduction of recidivism among incarcerated youth. The commission began partnering with MCCC three years ago to provide training and education to a small group of juveniles in a Medical Billing and Coding certificate program. Since then, the program has grown to a statewide career preparation in EKG, ServSafe, OSHA 10 Safety Training with Carpentry Pre-Apprenticeship Training, Game Design, and other courses.

“Our young people have a strong disenfranchisement from education,” Harrison said.  “These experiences show them that they can be successful learners.  They earn GEDs and certificates.  Everyone at the college should be proud.”

The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) received the Distinguished Corporate Partner Award. Accepting the award were Ralph Thomas, NJSCPA executive director for New Jersey, and Ric Ballezzi, the Mercer County Chapter president. Thomas noted that education is a cornerstone of the organization’s mission, which awards scholarships to many students studying for careers in accounting; this year NJSCPA gave five scholarships to MCCC students.

“Our partnership with Mercer is a natural," Thomas said.  "Our goal is to facilitate people becoming CPAs. MCCC provides the foundation for futures in the field.” The group has also used the MCCC Conference Center as a central location for its annual tax seminar and other meetings.

MCCC President Patricia Donohue concluded the event with her Report to the Community, which included highlights of student success, growth in programs and services, and facility upgrades, all of which reflect the goals of the college’s three-year strategic plan.  She encouraged community members “to explore everything your community college has to offer. Whether it’s for a performance, art exhibit, to take a class, or just to visit, we hope to see you again very soon.”

The college's 2011-12 Annual Report is available online here.

Visitors enjoyed handling the "pets" that were part of the Biology display.
Career Training Institute culinary students served from a carving station of meats.

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Student leaders staffed a table to present the variety of extracurricular activities available at Mercer. First-year Communications student Bryan Steward was the Viking mascot for the event.
Community honorees included, third from left, Tremaine Harrison, acting director of education for the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission; alumna Ayo Johnson, executive director at Westminster Community Life Center; and Ralph Thomas and Ric Ballezzi, of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. They are pictured with, from left, Board of Trustees Treasurer Pam Hersh and MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue.
Learning more about MCCC's athletic program was high school senior John Yoffredo II, third from left, pictured with his father and MCCC coaches Erin Cahill (women's cross country) and Ryan Zegarski (women's softball).
Nursing students took blood pressure readings. They are pictured with Heatlh Professions Dean Linda Martin, back, center.
Criminal Justice Program Coordinator speaks with a prospective student.
PTA Program Coordinator Barbara Behrens and recent grad Barb Vees.
Current student Milagros Maldonado, right, brought her daughter Dominique to the open house to beginning exploring her college options.
Theatre students performed scenes from their fall production, "The Importance of Being Earnest."
Chef Frank Benowitz and culinary students prepare Bananas Foster for the crowd.
Student Shannon Brown, left, staffed a table with Fashion Program Coordinator Allegra Ceci.