MCCC's "Living Report to Community"
Draws Hundreds


On Dec. 4, Mercer County Community College rolled out the red carpet at the MCCC Conference Center. Approximately 300 community members came out to celebrate a year of success and learn more about the opportunities available at Mercer. In addition to honoring three of MCCC's special community partners, the event, whose theme was "Creating the Future," provided a showcase for student achievement and faculty contributions.

Among the visitors were many prospective students and their families, who had a chance to talk with alumni and current students about various majors, learn about extracurricular activities, and listen to live music performed by the MCCC Jazz Band. Faculty and students presented interactive displays including blood pressure checks by nursing students, a demonstration of online classes by the Virtual College, and a sampling of desserts prepared by students from the Hospitality Club. Culinary students from the James Kerney Campus' Career Training Institute served roast beef at a carving station. The Conference Center staff laid out a sumptuous buffet and nine lucky guests won gift baskets and MCCC paraphernalia.

The event made it to the airwaves with a live broadcast of WWFM's Jazz on 2. Host Winifred Howard interviewed honorees Ana Berdecia, Greg Tornquist (for Cenlar FSB) and Ellen Guarnieri (for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton). Among the alumni interviewed were Mary Jane Harris ('07), now a medical student at UMDNJ, Helen Fadeyi ('08), an Advertising Design grad who works for MWH Advertising in Princeton, and Gina Marisi ('08), an Energy Utility Technology grad who moved directly from Mercer into a job as an engineer with PSE&G.

Honorees, second from left, Ana Berdecia, Ellen Guarnieri and Greg Tornquist, with MCCC President Patricia Donohue, far left, and Board Vice Chair Mark Matzen.
Faculty and students from the Hospitality Club prepared made-to-order servings of Bananas Foster.

Even Oscar the Grouch got into the act as a representative of the Horticulture program. A topiary made out of English Ivy, the world's most famous grump spends the summer at Sesame Place and makes its winter home in the MCCC Greenhouse. He was escorted by Horticulture alum Chris McCarron ('76), the landscape manager at Sesame Place, and adjunct faculty member Dawn Merz.

Following the two-hour open house, guests were invited to a formal program in the Conference Center Auditorium, during which the college honored three committed community partners. Introducing the honorees was Board Vice Chair Mark Matzen. Alumna Ana Berdecia, director of the Center for the Positive Development of Urban Children from the Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College, was selected for the Alumni Leader Award. Berdecia's community service includes her role as founder and president of the Latina Women's Council, the first organization of its kind in Mercer County, and participation with numerous other organizations dedicated to the educational outcomes of children and families. Berdecia, who also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Mercer, said, "I believe a leader is someone who sees a need and figures out a way to address it. If I am guilty of that, I accept this award proudly."

Greg Tornquist received the Corporate Partner Award on behalf of Cenlar Federal Savings Bank in recognition of the bank's long-term commitment to employee training through MCCC's Center for Training and Development. Tornquist expressed his gratitude, noting that the partnership has been highly beneficial for the bank, "helping us continue to grow and be successful."

Ellen Guarnieri, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, accepted the Partner in Learning Award, which the college presented in appreciation of the hospital's educational commitment to students in Mercer's nursing and other health profession programs. "We incorporate learning into every facet of our work, so we love having students around," Guarnieri said. "It's exciting to consider what we can do together in the future."

At the conclusion of the ceremony, New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora presented the three honorees with proclamations congratulating them for their highly productive relationships with MCCC. "It takes a whole community to fulfill one's goals. Mercer is an outstanding laboratory for acquiring an education in this state." Recognizing the important role of community colleges, he pledged continued support for Mercer's mission.

Following the awards, MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue presented her Annual Report to the Community, in which she outlined Mercer's success in student learning throughout the 2007-08 academic year. "In my second year as president, I continue to be struck by the vitality and talent of our faculty and staff and their high expectations for our students. This was a banner year by any measure," she said. Her narrative was accompanied by a PowerPoint scrapbook of photos taken during the year.

Corresponding to the event was the publication of the college's Annual Report and Foundation Report. Copies are available by calling (609) 570-3608.

See more event photos here.

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