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Graduation Feature Stories 2012

West Windsor, N.J. -- So many faces -- and so many lives -- came together at MCCC's commencement ceremonies on May 24. Some students were singled out for special recognition during the Honors Convocation ceremony preceding graduation. But every student who has earned his or her degree at MCCC last month has a success story to tell. Here are just a few:

Robert Sacks -- A.A.S. Visual Arts/Adversting Design

Robert Sacks is a career changer who graduates from Mercer with a 4.0 GPA with an AAS degree in Graphic and Advertising Design. He will transfer to the Graphic Design program at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in the fall.

Sacks returned to college at Mercer to pursue a second career after feeling the grip of the economic downturn. Formerly in marketing and sales, Sacks decided to blend that background with his passion for art. "Advertising design is the perfect marriage between business and art," he says.

Utilizing technology that is consistent with industry standards, Sacks says his experience in Mercer's program has been excellent. "I have had very good professors. I have learned the tools I will need to be successful." Sacks is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society and has his own design firm called Sacks Form & Function.

Jana Wolf -- A.S., Business Administration

Jana Wolf is an international student from a small town in Germany just 30 minutes by bike from the Baltic Sea. When it came time for college, Wolf knew she wanted to study internationally. Having previously worked in the central New Jersey region as an au pair ,she was comfortable with the idea of coming to MCCC.

As president of the International Student Organization, Wolf has organized and participated in a variety of ommunity service and social events. She loves MCCC, where she has found a family of international students, as well as many support staff and faculty mmembers who have helped her improve her English as she has earned her degree in Business Administration. She is a 3-Star PTK student and has received a generous scholarship to continue her business studies at Rider University. In addition to German and English, Wolf speaks Russian and Spanish. After college she would like to work for an international company, where her language skills will be especially valuable.

She notes that her American peers have been open and friendly and that she has shared her culture while they have shared theirs. "I love to learn new things. That's what we are here for, to learn something every day."

A sampling of MCCC grads, from left, Robert Sacks, Jana Wolf, Andrew Kotula, Pamalli Prather, Michael DiPersio and Nickie Papadopolous.
Nursing grad Kalyse Beckett celebrates the day with her son and mother.
Student leader Alex Henry with his twin siblings Sheriel and Samuel.

Alex Henry -- A.A.S, Network Engineering Technology/Information Technology

Alex Henry says Mercer has been a great experience. A Dean's List student, he has earned his degree in Network Engineering Technology, but has taken a wide variety of classes, including challenging honors classes, that has broadened his horizons tremendously.

A graduate of Princeton High School, he immediately became active in Mercer's Student Government Association in his first semester, serving in various capacities including senator, public relations representative, and vice president during the 2011-12 year, when he represented the student body at MCCC's College Governance Council meetings. Henry has attended many leadership events that have helped him build confidence as he prepares for transfer to NJIT.

Kalyse Beckett - A.S., Nursing; A.A., Social Science

A single mother who first decided to study nursing because of good employment prospects, Kalyse Beckett says she has grown to love the field. Selected to represent associate degree graduates at MCCC's James Kerney Campus Awards Ceremony earlier this month, she told the audience that her Nursing instructors have been truly inspiring. Another source of inspiration is her mother, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D.

Beckett has been working towards graduation for more than four years. She says it has been challenge to be a mom, go to school and work. At one point she withdrew from a science class because she just could not juggle it all, but "I never gave up. Failure was not an option." Beckett graduates with two degrees, having earned her first associate degree in Social Science in December.

Pamalli Prather -- A.A., Liberal Arts

Pam Prather had lots of unfinished business when she returned to school in her 30s, first earning her GED from the Daylight-Twilight High School in June 2008, and then beginning her college studies at MCCC.

The proud grad earns her associate degree in Liberal Arts. She will continue her studies on the MCCC campus, as she pursues her bachelor's degree in Psychology through the William Paterson University program.

Prather says she has found a second family at the college. During her Mercer years, she immersed herself in college life, serving as president of the JKC Student Activities Board and as the JKC liaison with the West Windsor campus. She has also volunteered in the prison system as a Bible study teacher and notes that her experience with prisoners has, in some ways, mirrored her own life, "when someone took the time to see my potential and fostered my development to achieve more."

A mother of three, Prather is enthusiastic about her college experience. "It's been nothing but good for me. Having been out of school for a long time, I didn't have much education and I didn't think I was capable. Professors here go above and beyond. I feel like I have been taken under their wing."

Andrew Kotula -- A.S., Chemistry

Andrew Kotula plans to finish his career in a completely different setting than his current job and Mercer is helping make that happen. Derailed at the age of 20 from finishing college due to the death of his father, Kotula went to work at Xerox Corporation, currently serving as a technical instructor.

Kotula decided to restart college in 2005 in pursuit of his long-delayed goal of being a high school science teacher. Taking mostly one class per semester, he completes his A.S. degree in Chemistry with high honors and is the recipient of the Organic Chemistry Award. He will transfer to a four-year school in state to complete his bachelor's degree in science education. Kotula has been unwavering in his commitment - one time commuting to an evening science class from his Xerox training site in Leesburg, Va., and then returning to work there the next morning. "I really think I can make a difference in the high school environment," he says.

Michael DiPersio -- A.S., Business Administration

NJ STARS graduate Michael DiPersio studied Business Administration at Mercer and believes that attending MCCC was "a great business decision," given the low tuition and quality education he received. In recognition of his academic achievements, he was awarded the Fred Anker Memorial Scholarship in Business and the Robert Harris Memorial Scholarship.

He will be attending the Rutgers University School of Business in the fall. As a member of Phi Theta Kappa, DiPersio was selected to represent the college as part of the 2012 All-USA Academic Team, along with another PTK student, Linda Cruzeta.

Nickie Papadopolous -- A.S., Business Administration

Also a Business Administration major, Nickie Papadopolous graduates with honors and received a Three-Star Award from the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. She praised her inspiring professors, especially business professors Framarz Khoushab and Laura Sosa. "They know their stuff inside and out and take the time outside of class to make sure students understand the material."

Nickie will transfer to Rider University to study economics.

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