Bailey Ramsay always knew she wanted to do something in the health care field. As a junior in high school, she decided it was nursing. She got into several college nursing programs, but couldn’t afford them. So Middlesex was the choice.
Frankly, she was not eager to go to MCC.
“Community colleges have a stigma that they are where you go if you didn’t do well or can’t afford a university,” she said.
But her attitude changed once she started taking classes.
“I came here and found a bunch of wonderful people and professors,” she said. “It was a great place to start. It’s a slow transition into adulthood. At the same time, the classes were rigorous and I didn’t do well my first year.”
She took too many difficult courses too soon.
So she left the program, but wanted to stay in college. She changed her major to psychology and took a wide variety of classes just because they interested her: anthropology, child psychology, counseling and ethics.
Ms. Ramsay earned her Associate Degree in Psychology but then decided to give nursing another try.
“The professors welcomed me back and helped me realize nursing is what I was born to do,” she said.
And this time, she excelled.
“I also enjoyed it so much more,” she said. “Middlesex is wonderful. I loved my professors and I love the College. I’m proud to soon be a Middlesex alumna.”
She is hoping to do a nursing residence at Raritan Bay Medial Center while at the same time earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree at Felician University, which offers its classes on the Middlesex campus.
Right now, Ms. Ramsay is planning to go into maternity and newborn nursing, but she also has an interest in pediatrics and psychiatry. And then there’s also a desire to become a medical missionary, spreading medical care and Christian values all over the world. But she also has designs on disaster relief, and volunteers with the Red Cross.
Ms. Ramsay was helped by several scholarships, and says she plans to contribute to student scholarships when she is able.
She was a member of the Psychology honor society; Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges; and she sang with the MCC Gospel Choir.
“I love Middlesex,” she said. “I recommend this school to all my friends.”
Luke Agojo has dedicated his life to service. First was in the United States Air Force, and now at Middlesex County College, where he has taken community service to new heights.
The Edison resident puts in between 400 and 500 hours of service a year.
“People have different agendas in life,” he said. “For me, I feel you should spend it helping those in need.”
Mr. Agojo was born in Jersey City but his family moved to Edison when he was in the third grade. He graduated from Edison High School and joined the Air Force, where he was a troubleshooter for the F-16 fighter jet. He was stationed in South Carolina and Texas for two years.
“I wanted to do something to make my parents proud and I wanted to do something honorable,” he said.
Mr. Agojo traces his interest in community service to his family.
“My family was poor,” he said. “My grandmother, who lived in the Philippines, worked five jobs and went to school at the same time. I’ve seen what it’s like to not have a lot. So it’s important for me to help others.”
He also feels that service helps those who serve as well.
“It’s one of the best ways to connect with someone,” he said. “It’s a connection you can’t fake. It provides a positive impact on people to work together to achieve a common goal.”
He participated in Habitat for Humanity builds while in the Air Force, and continued his service work at MCC. To name but a few, Mr. Agojo organized and led Democracy House’s annual beach sweep; volunteered with the Mobile Family Success Center’s Eggstravaganza event; volunteered at the Edison Environmental Commission’s boat basin cleanup; facilitated Democracy House’s annual coat drive for Jersey Cares; and organized all Volunteers in Action club meetings and on-campus events. This April, he was presented the Patrick Donohue Outstanding Service and Civic Engagement Student Award, which is named for the late Middlesex County College professor who created Democracy House.
Mr. Agojo has held numerous leadership positions at MCC too.
He was the Democracy House president; Phi Theta Kappa vice president for service; member of the College Assembly; and Student Government Association president and community service chair. He was also the liaison for local organizations that needed College volunteers.
Arianna Illa, coordinator with the Career Services Department at MCC, which oversees Democracy House, said Mr. Agojo is a wonderful leader.
“We knew right away he’d make a great president,” she said. “He’s the perfect example of a leader. He doesn’t just tell people what to do; he’s right in there with them working, the first person to volunteer. He leads by example. And he’s a people person.”
Mr. Agojo graduated this May with a degree in liberal arts with highest honors and will attend Kean University, majoring in social work. He plans to go into higher education administration. But he’ll never stop focusing on service.
“It’s a huge part of my life,” he said
Lois Twum-Barimah grew up fast. She was 12 years old, living with her Godmother in her native country of Ghana. They were close. Her Godmother became ill and had to be taken to a far-away hospital.
“They made a misdiagnosis, and it cost her her life,” Ms. Twum-Barimah said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to become a doctor.”
It was a circuitous route to her dreams. Ms. Twum-Barimah said in Ghana, students are steered into business, health care or vocational school, with the majority of men being steered toward the plum jobs in health care. She was guided to economics and graduated with honors in 2013 from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
She liked the subject, but didn’t want to spend the next 40 years exploring supply and demand.
So, along with her mother, she immigrated to the U.S. and came to Middlesex County College because an alumna-friend had recommended it.
“I’m very happy I chose Middlesex,” she said. “I’ve had some amazing professors. They are very encouraging. It feels good to know you have someone who believes in you. I love the fact that professors don’t just teach and leave. Their doors are open.”
This May, she graduated magna cum laude from Middlesex County College with honors, and is planning to go to pharmacy school in Massachusetts and then on to medical school. She hopes to become a cardiac surgeon.
This spring, under the guidance of Professor Erin Christensen, she partnered with another student, Anusha Gunti, in a research project.
They collected water samples from Perth Amboy, Edison and the Delaware River in Trenton, and then used what they had learned in genetics and microbiology classes to analyze DNA in bacteria and how it has become resistant to drugs.
“This is important because if you drink water or eat food that contains this bacteria and then need to be treated with a drug that the bacteria is resistant to, that drug’s effects would be minimized or non-existent,” she said.
For her work on this project, Ms. Twum-Barimah was awarded a $3,000 scholarship by the New Jersey Water Environment Association at its annual conference in May.
Dr. Christensen said Ms. Twum-Barimah is an excellent student. She is a double major – biology and chemistry – and a member of the Biology Society, Chemistry Society, and Psi Beta, the psychology honor society, and Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges.
“I’m very grateful to Middlesex,” she said. “I feel like all the science I know is from here.”
Juana Catalina Cuarezma turned 70 years old on May 1. Sixteen days later, she graduated from Middlesex County College. She started taking courses in 2009, and took one class per semester.
“I was not in a hurry,” she said with a grin.
Ms. Cuarezma, who goes by her middle name, started working as a human resources associate for the United Nations in her native country of Nicaragua in 1979. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Central American University in 1982 and moved to the United States two years later.
But the United Nations Human Resources operation was transferred to Denmark in 2007. Ms. Cuarezma could have gone along, but she had a son in the United States, as well as a condo, and she wanted to stay. So she took an early retirement.
What to do now?
Her colleagues told her she needed to keep busy to avoid boredom. A gym and pool were five minutes from her house. She took spinning classes and swim lessons.
“But I realized the gym was not enough,” she said.
One day, she spied some literature from Middlesex County College. Her son had attended an open house in 2002, and she came across it seven years later. She took a couple of ESL classes to improve her English and then started credit courses. At first, she took classes only on Saturdays, as she was working temp jobs during the week. But she then moved into weekday evening classes, and then afternoon ones.
“Since I retired, my time is spent at the gym and at Middlesex,” she said. “The gym helped keep my body fit and Middlesex helped keep my mind sharp.”
Indeed. Ms. Cuarezma boasts a 3.7 grade point average and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, and Alpha Mu Gamma, the national honor society for foreign languages. She studied French.
“I was very happy with the classes,” she said. “Middlesex was a really nice experience for me. I especially enjoyed French Professors Brenda Cavanaugh and Shannon Osborn-Jones.”
This is not the end of Ms. Cuarezma’s academic career. Even though she’s graduating, she plans to continue to take classes at MCC.
“My nephew graduated from MCC and said he was glad I was doing it, but wanted me to realize I’ll be in class with a lot of teenagers,” she said. “But I was comfortable in class with them. A few times – at the beginning of the first class – they would see my gray hair and say, ‘Are you our professor?’ I said, ‘No, but I could be your mother. I have a son older than you.’”