West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College recognized top students at the annual Honors Convocation that preceded commencement on May 23. More than 100 students received academic awards and scholarships, presented by MCCC faculty and administrators in full regalia before a capacity crowd of family and friends at Kelsey Theatre.
Mercer's 2012 Distinguished Teacher awardee Kathi Paluscio presided over the ceremony. She applauded this special group of students. "You tend to try harder. You are more generous with your time. You make personal sacrifices to be successful and you have this thing that makes you do more." Paluscio encouraged the graduates to nurture that drive. "That is most important in getting you where you want to go," she said.
Paluscio also acknowledged the families -- the parents, spouses and children -- who have supported these exceptional students in their efforts to achieve, as well as the many donors who have provided scholarships that enable graduates to continue to pursue their academic goals at four-year institutions.
Also adding congratulatory remarks were MCCC President Patricia C. Donohue and Board Chair Gwendolyn Harris.
Among these special students was Criminal Justice major Alfonso Rosado, who received a Transfer Presidential Scholarship to continue for his bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies and Psychology at William Paterson University at Mercer.
His joy was clear as he accepted his scholarship from WPU Provost Dr. Stephen Hahn. "I put myself to the test and I got through it," Rosado said, noting that his MCCC professors were behind him 100 percent.
Rosado, who works two part-time jobs, says that many of his friends decided to go right to work after high school, while others started college with him, but have not finished. "There is nothing wrong with getting a job, but there is everything wrong with giving up the opportunity for an education," he said. Rosado plans to work in the community corrections field following graduation.
Some of the college's highest achievers received multiple awards. Biology/ Chemistry graduate Rebekah Dietrich received three awards: the MCCC Faculty Association Scholarship in memory of Prof. Emeritus David E. Collier, the Dowd/Fessler Memorial Scholarship in Biology, and the Excellence in Organic Chemistry Award. She will transfer to a four-year college in the fall. Her goal is to be a pediatrician. A member of PTK, Dietrich visited local elementary schools as a National Chemistry Week volunteer and completed an honors research project with Dr. Jim Riggs at Rider University.
Business Administration grad Melody Hicks earned her associate degree in December and now attends The College of New Jersey, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Accounting. She is the recipient of the NJ Society of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship, the Business Administration Outstanding Achievement Award, and an Albert B. Kahn Foundation Scholarship.
Hicks and Student Government Association President Anderson Monken were recognized for their selection to the 2013 PTK All-USA Academic Team. Monken was also named a New Century Scholar, serving as New Jersey’s representative among 50 community college students from across the nation. He will start classes at Vanderbilt University in the fall.
Another high achiever was Business Administration major Jonghyun Phoenix. Phoenix earned the Excellence in Mathematics Award, a Business Administration Outstanding Achievement Award and an Albert B. Kahn Foundation Scholarship. She will join Hicks at The College of New Jersey in the fall, where she will study Finance and Actuarial Science, with a goal to become an actuary.
Education major Laymon Flack was the recipient of the first Saul Goldwasser Memorial Award for Excellence in Philosophy, created in memory of this beloved MCCC professor emeritus and former director of the Mercer County Holocaust-Genocide Resource Center who passed away in 2012. A member of Phi Theta Kappa, Flack will attend the University of Hartford, where he will major in Education and minor in Philosophy.
Liberal Arts major Sierra Downs was awarded the Cynthia Schaffer Memorial Scholarship and, at an earlier ceremony for student athletes, was named the Female Scholar Athlete of the Year as a member of the women’s cross country team. Basketball player Armando Davis was named the Male Scholar Athlete. Downs was an active member of Phi Theta Kappa who organized a Hurricane Sandy clean-up day in Belmar in November and a 5K run/walk in support of victims of the Boston Marathon bombings in May. She will transfer to a four-year school in the fall with the goal of being a speech therapist.
Advertising/Graphic Design major Erika Morillo is the recipient of the Samuel Willig Memorial Scholarship in Advertising Design. An active member of the Art Club and a mentor for the DREAM program, Morillo will transfer to Moore College of Art to pursue her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She was this year's recipient of the Jim and Fannie Floyd Foundation Scholarship.
Faculty coordinators of Mercer’s Honors Program acknowledged 18 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 15 members of Alpha Theta Gamma, MCCC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society, 15 NJ STARS graduates, 23 new members of the Alpha Mu Gamma National Collegiate Foreign Language Society, and 21 students who were selected for Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges.
Jonghyun Phoenix, center, with, from left, Vice President for Academic Affairs Guy Generals, Business Professor Laura Sosa, Business Dean Winston Maddox and President Patricia C. Donohue.