Barbara Buccino is an adult student who has always wanted to teach.
“I wanted to be a teacher since I was 4 years old,” she said. “But life got in the way.”
She came to MCC right after high school but needed three jobs to make ends meet and it got to be too much.
“Now, 27-plus years later, I decided nobody and no one is standing in my way, so I came back.” She boasts a 4.0 grade point average since returning. She is on the Dean’s List and a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the education honor society. She is planning to go to Kean University to complete a Bachelor’s Degree and become an elementary school teacher.
“I had an excellent experience here at MCC,” she said. “The professors have been excellent – really fantastic.”
She has two children, age 9 and 11.
“My kids and my late father have been my driving force to do this,” she said.
Alex Demydenko (South River) started at MCC about 10 years ago, but left to join the U.S. Navy as a Gunner’s Mate. He worked primarily with small arms – repairing, retrofitting, and shipping and receiving. He was deployed for most of his career with the Fifth Fleet.
Mr. Demydenko left active duty and joined the Navy Reserves, rejoining MCC in the Spring of 2018.
“He was the President of the MCC Veterans and Servicemembers Association and assisted in many Veterans Services and MCC events, and is viewed as a leader among his peers,” said Michael Barany, of the College’s Veterans Center.
Mr. Demydenko is graduating with his associate degree in Homeland Security and carried the College banner at Commencement, an honor that recognizes a student active in campus organizations. He will be attending New Jersey City University’s National Security Studies program, which is held on the MCC campus. But first he is being deployed to Africa in August; he’s planning to take an online course in the fall and “see how that goes.”
Aya Mansour of North Brunswick attended Noor-Ul-Iman School in South Brunswick. Several of her friends who were homeschooled were planning to go to MCC and she decided to follow their example. She took a psychology course at MCC while still in high school and loved it, and then decided to matriculate. She had just turned 16 when she stepped into her first class as a full-time student.
“Coming to Middlesex was the best decision I ever made,” she said. “I love it here. It was very welcoming and I grew so much. I recently saw my counselor and she said ‘It’s amazing how much you’ve changed. When you came into my office the first time you were so shy. Now look at you!’”
She is also graduating with Highest Honors.
Mike Nichols (Monroe Township) has been confined to a wheelchair since January of 2014 when he shattered his C5 vertebrae during a hockey game. He has maintained a positive, upbeat attitude, partnering with the sports talk radio station WFAN to create the Mikey Strong Benefit Hockey game, which includes numerous celebrities and retired NHL greats.
A huge sports fan, Mr. Nichols is a communications major who plans a career in sports broadcasting.
“My experience at MCC has been great,” he said. “They’ve been very accommodating and the professors have been very helpful. I enjoyed my time here at Middlesex, especially with the Blue Colt radio station and Professor Louis Dell’Omo.”
Mr. Nichols hosted a weekly sports radio show, “Blue Colt Benchwarmers.” He is planning to take at least part of the fall off to concentrate on his physical therapy, and then find a job in sports broadcasting; continuing on for a four-year degree is also a possibility.
Alexandria Wonksi always dreamed of going to Princeton University. The Ivy League tradition and rigorous academics appealed to her, plus she loves New Jersey.
“I love that Princeton is filled with so many opportunities and brilliant professors,” she said.
“There’s a lot of challenge presented there with the rigorous curriculums. I also always heard that the math department was one of the best – if not the best – in the world, which is very appealing to me.”
But transferring from Middlesex County College to Princeton isn’t possible, is it? Now, it is.
“Since 1990 until last year, Princeton didn’t take transfer students from community colleges,” said Linda Scherr, Dean of Arts and Sciences at MCC. “This is a recognition that prestigious universities such as Princeton understand that community college students can do first-rate work. It says a lot about community colleges in general and MCC in particular.”
So that’s where Ms. Wonski is headed this fall.
“It was beyond exciting to hear that transfer admissions had been reopened after such a long period,” she said.
Ms. Wonski toyed with majoring in Chemistry before choosing Mathematics at MCC. She’d like to combine the two, perhaps studying Theoretical Chemistry or Computational Chemistry at Princeton, where she is receiving a full scholarship. She hopes to eventually earn a doctorate and work in research at a university.
While a student at Bishop Ahr High School, Ms. Wonski took a pre-calculus class at MCC through the High School Scholars program.
“I loved it,” she said. “So I decided to come here when I graduated high school. I liked the environment and had a great experience here. It was a very caring atmosphere. The professors cared about the students and the students cared about their education.”
She cited Natural Sciences Professor Phalguni Ghosh, Mathematics Professor Brian Sicilia, and Philosophy Professor John Roskoski as especially influential. She is graduating from MCC with Highest Honors.
Ms. Wonski was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, as well as the Music Club and the Dance Club. She plays the piano, guitar and ukulele; she is also an opera singer who twice won contests and performed at Carnegie Hall.
“Since I was a kid I wanted to go to Princeton,” she said. “And now I’m realizing that dream.”