Mercer County College celebrates 25 years of academic excellence

Hundreds in the Trenton community gathered on May 7 to hear inspirational stories from students who have made the most of their education at Mercer County Community College (MCCC).  The event, held at the Trenton War Memorial, was the college’s 25th Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement for the Trenton campus.

The college celebrated the achievements of 175 students who have made the Trenton campus their place of learning and will earn their degrees in May.  Graduation candidates included 55 associate degree students, 65 General Education Development (GED) students, 20 Career Training Institute (CTI) students, 15 English Language Institute (ELI) students, and 20 HomeFront students.

“Tonight we celebrate the college’s 25 years in Trenton committed to education, and the students at this campus that have worked so hard and deserve our praise,” said Trenton Dean and Provost Monica Weaver.  She added that over the years the campus has awarded more than 2,000 associate degrees and 10,000 GED certificates.

“When we educate in Trenton, we go hard or we go home,” added Weaver, noting that the Career Training program boasts 90 percent job placement for students.  “Tonight our largest group of students will be graduating from our GED program,” said Weaver, adding that 25 percent will go on to enroll at Mercer for their associate degree.

“Graduates: tonight is about celebrating your success.  Tomorrow is the beginning of the next part of your journey.  Congratulations to you all,” said MCCC President Patricia Donohue.

Keynote speaker was Maurice Coleman, a Trenton Central High School graduate and senior vice president for Bank of America, where he manages the company’s investments in affordable housing. His mother, who worked as a cleaner at Princeton University, made the decision to enroll at Mercer after starting a family, and went on to become an educator for 42 years in the Trenton school system.

“My mother wanted me to convey her message: be eagles, not chickens.  Celebrate how high you can fly,” he said.

Coleman, who was recently named to Crain’s New York Business “Top 40 Under Forty” list, discussed how today’s advanced technology has caused people to expect instant results for their efforts.  “We want success without the work,” he said. “The difference between being ordinary and extraordinary is one word: extra.” He gave examples of extraordinary people in history who had many defeats before becoming successful, namely Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall.

Four students spoke as representatives of their programs. Sabrina Wright will be graduating with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. “After some struggles in my life I finally decided to reevaluate the direction my life was going and I enrolled at Mercer,” said Wright, admitting she was nervous to enroll after so many years out of school.  As a full time student with a job, no transportation, and no computer, Wright had to overcome many obstacles in order to achieve her goal.

GED student George Thomas was very emotional as he spoke about his time at Mercer.  “My teachers had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself,” he said.  “Now I have my GED, but I’m not done yet,” he said, adding that he’s already enrolled in associate degree classes at Mercer.

Isaac Marshall spoke on behalf of CTI graduates.  “You can be whatever you set out to be.  You can become it and you can achieve it,” said Marshall, who is graduating from the Culinary Technician program and now owns his own catering business.

Eddy Fuentes, who came to America from Guatemala five years ago, spoke on his experiences as a student in MCCC’s English Language Institute.

Dr. Gwendolyn Harris, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees, offered her own praise to students.  “You have made a tremendous accomplishment here today,” she said.  “You represent what we want for this community as a whole; continue learning throughout your life and show that it can be done.”

Three faculty members were also recognized for going above and beyond to help students: Counselor Specialist Linda Ertingu, English faculty member Dr. Donna Richardson-Hall, and JKC Learning Center Coordinator Joanna Mia.

Also participating in the ceremony were MCCC Associate Professor Alvyn Haywood and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Guy Generals, along with Development Manager Amy McLeer Frangione and Foundation Board member Robert Humes, who presented awards to ten scholarship recipients.

Photo captions:

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MCCC President Patricia Donohue (right) offers her congratulations to student Sabrina Wright of Trenton, who is graduating from Mercer with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Wright spoke on behalf of the associate degree graduates at the college’s 25th Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement for the Trenton campus.

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Pictured center are GED scholarship recipients Carlos Jones of Trenton and George Thomas of Trenton, along with Foundation Board member Robert Humes (far left) and Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Gwendolyn Harris (far right). Thomas spoke on behalf of the GED graduates at the college’s 25th Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement for the Trenton campus.

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Pictured center is Career Training Institute (CTI) graduate Isaac Marshall of Trenton, who spoke on behalf of the CTI graduates at the college’s 25th Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement for the Trenton campus.  Pictured with Marshall are CTI Culinary Chef Jorge Maldonado (left) and CTI Assistant Director Craig Morris (right).

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Maurice Coleman was the keynote speaker at the college’s 25th Annual Celebration of Academic Achievement for the Trenton campus. Coleman is a Trenton Central High School graduate and senior vice president for Bank of America, where he manages the company’s investments in affordable housing.