Class of 2017

Posted 5-19-17

On a sultry, midsummer-like day yesterday, over 1100 graduates received associate degrees and certificates in two ceremonies at the Passaic County Community College 45th Annual Commencement, held at the Main Campus in Paterson. The Class of 2017 “is one of the largest we’ve ever had,” said Dr. Steven Rose, the college president to the audience of graduates, faculty, administrators, guests, and enthusiastic friends and family of the grads who applauded, cheered, and sometimes expressed themselves loudly. “I love you mommy,” a little voice rang out, at one point, drawing laughter and more applause. (Read more)

Passaic County Community College
45th Annual Commencement Ceremonies

May 18, 2017 – Main Campus
Commencement Theme: Celebrating Our Diversity

Graduating Speaker: Doris Pagan

2017 All –USA Academic Team
Phi Theta Kappa
Coca-Cola Silver Scholar Scholar

Read Doris’ reflection

Watch the video 



Information for Graduates  

Congratulations on your accomplishments! Soon, you will be participating in your college graduation. All of us at Passaic County Community College are very proud of what you were able to do.

Commencement Day: May 18, 2017
Ceremony Location: Main Campus/Gymnasium

Information for Families and Guests  

Commencement at PCCC

Commencement Date:  May 18, 2017
Ceremony Location:  Main Campus/Gymnasium

Spotlight on Our Graduates 2017 

  • Sheila Varela
    A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education

    She postponed her education to care for her children. Now child education has become her career path.
    Read the story

  • Monica Ama
    A.A. in Early Childhood Education

    Her love for PCCC is so great, she wishes it were a four-year college.
    Read the story

  • Karream Sheard
    AS Liberal Arts/Engineering Science

    A former scrap metal worker who became a NASA scholar.
    Read the story

  • Carlos Macazana
    AS Liberal Arts/Biology

    An indifferent high school student, Carlos transformed into a respected science researcher at PCCC.
    Read the story

  • Doris Pagan
    A.S. in Human Services

    Multiple career paths and years later, this 41-year-old Silver Scholar’s time has come.
    Read the story

  • Suzette Bradshaw
    A.S. Health Science

    Detours Did Not Deter
    This Future Nurse from Pursuing Her Dream.
    Read the story

  • Zenya Koprowski
    A.S. Business Administration

    NJ Star graduates with high honors, leadership award, and Shea award for academic and service achievement.
    Read the story

  • O’Shane Williams
    A.A. in Studio Arts

    Receiving a “C” in history was the catalyst for his academic achievement.
    Read the story

Sheila Varela

A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education

• Valedictorian
• Graduating with High Honors
• Early Childhood and Teacher Education Graduate Achievement Award

She postponed her education to care for her children. Now child education has become her career path.

“It took so long for me to find my passion,” said Sheila Varela who graduated May 18 with the Class of 2017. Though Sheila grew up in a large family and is a mother of four, it was not until she came to PCCC that she fully realized what others had been telling her for years: “You should be working with children.”

Adding persistence to passion, Sheila went on to earn her A.A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education with high honors, receive this year’s Graduate Award in Early Childhood Education, and serve as a valedictorian of her graduating class.

“I was overwhelmed,” said Sheila, when she learned she was selected as valedictorian. “I couldn’t believe it. I cried, laughed, and was congratulated by my whole family.”

Then reality set in. “I always felt a little nervous about public speaking,” Shelia confessed. “I calmed myself and decided to just make the speech relatable and tell my story.”

Delivered at the 45th Commencement’s morning ceremony, Sheila’s valedictory was a heartfelt message of inspiration from a woman who, with four children and a full-time job outside the home, had good reasons to not pursue a college degree. Instead, she became a full-time student and excelled.

Born in Puerto Rico, Sheila grew up the sixth of 12 siblings in a devout Christian family. At age 3, she came with her family to the U.S. and settled in Newark, New Jersey, where Sheila attended the Alpha-Omega Christian School for both her elementary and secondary education.

After high school graduation, Sheila enrolled in Union County College as a biology major, with plans to enter the health care field. Discovering, though, that neither the school nor the major was the right fit for her, Sheila left the college.
Interested in skin care, she trained and worked for a time in beauty culture, then went on to a job in a dental office, thinking that medical coding might be the right field for her. “Nothing excited me” said Sheila. “I thought about returning to college to find what I wanted to do.”

Along the way, Sheila met and fell in love with Luis, an auto shop manager. They married in October 2008, and settled in Paterson. Only one month later, Luis gained custody of his three children.

“I was a newlywed, 24 years old, and had absolutely no parenting skills,” Sheila said in her valedictory speech. “I decided to put my education on hold and dedicate myself to the three children that I was entrusted to raise and educate.” A few years later, the family expanded when Sheila gave birth to a daughter.

When her youngest was a year old, Sheila felt ready again to work outside the home, and with the experience gained from motherhood, she leaned toward working with children. She earned her Child Development Associate credential through a community-run program in Newark and was hired by her alma-mater, Alpha-Omega, where she still works full time.

Yet the college education she had postponed came back to mind. “I was always curious about PCCC, because it’s so close to home,” she said. Encouraged by her husband, she attended an Open House and found her perfect fit.

“Coming to PCCC was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Sheila. “The education program here is phenomenal.” Though already working with children, Sheila said, “I believe my passion towards Early Childhood Education was broadened at PCCC. The valuable things I learned to teach to children and also apply to myself as a teacher have been priceless.”

She also raves about the PCCC faculty. “I enjoyed all the professors I had. They really care about their students and want to bring out the best in you,” said Sheila.

She is especially grateful to Professor Anita Kumar of the Teacher Education Department. “You have impacted my life in ways you can’t imagine,” said Sheila in her valedictory speech, directing her thanks to Professor Kumar who sat among other faculty in the audience.
In fact, the new alumna plans to enter a bachelor’s degree program at William Paterson University, eventually earn a master’s degree, and follow in her mentor’s footsteps. “I would like to become an Early Childhood Education professor, she said. “I want to be the teacher who trains the teachers.”

Looking back over her journey to this point, Sheila offers some wisdom to others who may have a dream that seems unattainable. “Be persistent,” she said. “I learned from my parents who went through life with many struggles and challenges, but they never gave up. That was inspirational. “

Valedictory Address by Sheila Varela

Presented May 18, 2017 at the
PCCC 45th Annual Commencement
Morning Ceremony

Distinguished guests, administrators, professors, family, friends, and class of 2017.

My name is Sheila Varela, and I am honored to be the speaker for the valedictorian’s address this morning.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.” I would like to start by congratulating my fellow graduates in achieving this important milestone towards their educationalgoals.

Today you get to see the result of your hard work, dedication, and yes, and for many of us, even tears. When I first entered Passaic County Community College, I came to an open house and was blown away by the warmth from the staff, I then scheduled a meeting with to Professor Kumar and told her, ”I am married, I have 4 kids, and I work fulltime, I need to establish smallaccomplishable goals, I am scheduled to graduate in 2018 but I would like to be done by 2017. She looked at me and told me, “No problem, we can do that.” Little did I know that meant I would have to take 15 credits my first semester.

To my friends with whom I spent countless hours with studying for a test, or proof reading each other’s work. Those few individuals, You know who you are; Thank you. I could not have done it without you. When I was asked to be valedictorian, I didn’t know where to begin. While receiving heartfelt congratulations from my family. It hit me, I wanted to share a little bit of my story with you.

My parents moved here from Puerto Rico when I was 3 years old. They worked hard to give me and my 11 siblings a good education. Yes, I said 11 siblings. I was raised in a traditional Christian home with Christian values to live by and was taught to always follow God’s willfor my life. My parents always told me, “ If you are faithfulto God, he willbe faithfulto you”.

Today, I get to witness those words become a reality in my life. To elaborate a little more, 9 years ago I married my husband. One month later we were told that we had fullcustody of his 3 children.

I was a newlywed, 24 years old, and had absolutely no parenting skills. I decided to put my education on hold and dedicate myself to the three children that I was entrusted to raise and educate. Although I had the desire to return to school, the demands of my new life as a wife and mother did not make it possible. We also added our youngest daughter to the family 4 years after. I dedicated myself to my home and family untilI felt was the right time to continue pursuing my education, and here I am today.
Now that we have completed this goal, we shouldn’t stop here. We should take upon ourselves new goals to accomplish. There willbe obstacles, but, just as we have gotten here today, any goals that we set our mind to, we can accomplish. This shouldn’t be the end for any of us, this should really be the beginning. This is your time, this is your season, take this opportunity and move forward to set greater goals and challenges to accomplish. This is your chance to be able to seize the moment and move forward from here.

I would like to thank some people in particular who have impacted my journey here at Passaic County Community College. I would like to thank my friends, my family (especially my parents), and my husband and 4 children for being my supporters from day one. I would especially like to thank Professor Kumar for the amount of support and encouragement that she has given me during the course of my time here at PCCC.

While trying to find words to describe professor Kumar, Guess what I did? I googled. I googled “qualities of a good professor” and found that a good professor is friendly, has a good personality, has deep knowledge and a great education, is a good communicator, a good listener, has a good sense of humor, and is fullof kindness. Professor Kumar, I am proud to say that you have allthe qualifications of a good professor and you have impacted my life in ways that you can’t imagine.

To my fellow graduates, tomorrow isnt promised to any of us, so let’s seize the moment, and let’s make the most of what we have today.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 and I am proud to say that I am a graduate of Passaic County Community College.


Sister Monica Ama

A.A.  Liberal Arts/
Early Childhood Education

• Valedictorian
• Graduating with Highest Honors
• Early Childhood and Teacher Education Graduate Achievement Award

She Wishes PCCC Could Be a Four-Year College

Sister Monica Ama lives a life of faith, but a few days ago, the Roman Catholic nun was filled with disbelief when she learned that she would deliver the valedictory address at the 45th Annual Commencement on May 18.

“I couldn’t believe it, “she said.  “I don’t know how I’ll do when I go up in front of all those people.”

Despite assurance that her rehearsal the day before commencement went very well, Sister Monica had a back-up plan. “I will pray,” she said in a calm, soft voice that gave no hint of worry.

A part-time student at PCCC since 2012, Sister Monica will receive her A.A. Degree in Liberal Arts/Early Childhood Education with highest honors and will give the valedictory speech at the evening ceremony.
She is also a recipient of the Early Childhood and Teacher Education Graduate Award.

Born in Nigeria, the oldest of 9 siblings, Sister Monica favored math and science at school. “Math is my favorite subject,”she said, “and I was always science-inclined.”

She earned credentials in chemistry and computer science in 1998 at the (then)  Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, a teacher-training institution located in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, Nigeria.   “I would have preferred math,” said Sister Monica, but that program was filled.

It was after her graduation, that Monica, a lifelong Catholic, entered the convent. “I wanted to be a nun since I was about four years old,” she said.  “People who knew me used to call me ‘Sister,’ even when I was little.”

Monica entered the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood congregation in Nigeria. She made the first profession of her vows in 2002, then came to the U.S. the following year to work at the congregation’s Paterson location.

According to their website, The Daughters of Charity operates as a grassroots rescue mission, ministering directly to people of the local community who are in need of food, clothing, and more.
In particular, they operate accredited child-care facilities that enable parents to go to a job.

Sister Monica teaches at the congregation’s St. Michael Day Care Center and also occasionally teaches religious education classes to children at St. Gerard Majella Church, also in Paterson. She returned to Nigeria in 2008 to make the final profession of her religious vows.

As she looked around the library at PCCC’s Paterson campus, Sister Monica said, “I love it here. I loved all the classes I had, and each one of my professors is special to me, especially (teacher education) Professor Kumar.”

The diversity and inclusiveness of PCCC made a deep impression her. “All types of people are here. Everyone is included and people are friendly to each other.”

Sister Monica praised the dedication of the faculty. “They are close to their students,” she said. “They meet with students and are among the students.”

Impressed with PCCC’s learning resources, Sister Monica said she “really made use” of the Writing Center and Tutoring Center. “I like to write,” she explained. “Sometimes I think I write too much.”

In fact, while preparing her valedictory speech, Sister Monica drew upon some of her earlier writing from her College Experience class and also from the work of Anthony DeMello, a Jesuit priest and teacher of spirituality.

A theme in her speech is to seize the moment, to enjoy and appreciate what is before us right now.
“This moment is really all we have,” she says.

Though Sister Monica plans to continue into a bachelor’s degree program at William Paterson University, she would actually prefer a different option if it were available to her.

“I wish Passaic County Community College could be a four-year school,” she said. “I would like to stay.
I will miss it here.”

Valedictory Address of Sister Monica Ama

Presented May 18, 2017
PCCC 45th Annual Commencement – Evening Ceremony

Good Evening Everyone. Faculty, administrators, counselors, families, friends, everyone who has made this graduation successful, and above all my fellow graduates. As valedictorian of the graduating class of 2017, the first thing I would like to say is “thank you all.” When I heard that I would be giving a speech on graduation day, I was restless. I started calling friends, telling them that I am in trouble. I reached out to my friends and professors who helped and encouraged me, without them I wouldn’t be standing here for the speech.
They fortified me and gave me many ideas, like googling for samples and so on. As I was googling, I was not satisfied, and then I thought about checking my reflective writing, which I did during my College Experience, and these writings inspired me. I thank God, the Almighty in Whom I trust, for inspiring me the most. All these eventually worked out well for me. That’s why I am standing here with humility and reverence.
I came from Africa, more specifically Nigeria, fourteen years ago. Coming from Africa to America is like a dream. Life in America is different from the life in Africa. I remembered my childhood, when we had to take breakable pots and big containers to the stream to collect water, but here one has water at turn of a handle. There are buses that take children to school, while in Nigeria, I had to walk miles between thick forests to go to school. It was a big transition for me. Now, as an adult, doing my ministry in America, the difference is clear. A flashback to home really helped me to appreciate how privileged I am.

My fellow graduates, I know every one of us has his or her story of life before we reached where we are today. I guess we all remember our pre-school days, kindergarten, grammar schools, and high schools. If we did not make the first step we would not be here.

The first day we stepped into Passaic County Community College, we started to build on our dreams. We are grateful to families, friends, (for my own part, my fellow religious sisters), who made all the sacrifices they could make in order to send us to school. We are privileged to be part of this college. All the hard work we did for the past years have come to be rewarded. We achieved this with the help of our faculty, administrators, professors, counselors, families, friends, and fellow students. Thanks once again to all who had worked hard to make this successful. And I thank the USA government for providing financial aid, especially for me.

My fellow graduates, we are here today to celebrate with all gathered, and those who could not make it, especially those who live miles and miles away, wherever you are, we extend our gratitude to you. We are fortunate to pass through this college. Our life is like the seasons; If there is no “fall season,”,there is no hope of “spring season.” If the leaves do not fall during fall season, there would be a delay in spring to produce new leaves on tree branches.

Our dreams should not end here, we have to continue our education. We are about to enter into the work force, and some of us are there already; much is expected of us. To whom much is given, much is expected. We have to keep our alma mater flag flying, and we are to be good ambassadors of our college. We have to let the world know where we are coming from by being good men and women of noble characters. Our productivity is the integration of what we read and learned. In order to accomplish our dreams, we need to be alive.
How can one be alive in this life? According to Anthony De Mello, to be alive means “to be you, to be now, and to be here.” To be you, means not to give the remote control of your life to someone else. No one can make you happy, you are the key to your happiness and success, despite all odds. To be now, means not to dwell in the past, or in the future, though we have to plan for the future, but it is not here. A saying goes, “past is a history, future is a mystery, and the present is what we have now. Make us, of the now.” The last one is, to be here. An example is about a couple who had been saving money and dreaming of travel to Paris. When the opportunity came, they traveled, and when they reached Paris, they were busy taking only pictures to show to friends, though taking pictures is good. By the time they knew what was happening, their days were over. They had to return without enjoying what they went there to enjoy.

Therefore, I urge everyone especially my fellow graduates to now look around you, appreciate and congratulate each other. Look at yourselves and see the journey that we started few years ago, because we took it step by step, moment by moment, here and now we were able to reach here which means we are alive. So, what is our goal when we leave from here?
Identifying one’s goals are important in life. Whatever the goal might be, one does not have to take life just as one sees it, but has to take life where one goes, make effort to make both ends meet, and know that nothing is impossible. There is a quote that says, “The difference between impossible and the possible lies in the impact of ones’ determination.” No matter what is your goal in life, everything is possible where there is determination. I know, sometimes, it is very, very, difficult, and sometimes, luck is required; do not hesitate to keep on struggling, and if you need help, run to a friend who can help you. If you are in doubt, just ask questions from those who know better than you.
As the fingers on a hand are of different sizes, so also our individual gifts. No one finger can do it all. Nobody has it all. We are in this world to support one another. As one hand cannot wash itself perfectly without the other hand, so, we need each other for support and encouragement. Let us not let what we cannot do restrict us from doing what we can do. For instance, my friend likes music and songs, but if she sings, everyone will run from the stage. She cannot sing very well, but, it did not prevent her from joining the group. She learned how to play guitar, and there, she found her talent. People have various skills.

Understanding and knowing what you can do, will help you in accomplishing the rest of your goals. Sometimes, life gets hard; believe in yourself, and pull through it. Do not let failures, or past events stop you from doing something you desire to pursue in life. Do not dwell on things you already missed in life, focus on what in life still holds for you. Chances are that we will live up to our dreams as we have achieved this diploma. In order for one to achieve one’s dreams, one must have a dream, know the dream, believe in the dream, and then determine to achieve it. Therefore, having a positive attitude toward life will assist one to achieve one’s dreams. It is a gradual process that requires patience.
Charles Lindberg states that “Success is not measured by what a man (or woman) accomplishes, but by the opposition he has encountered and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” To succeed is not easy, but it’s worth achieving. Everyone has his or her own secret of success. As for me I manage my time consciously, and studied the chapters before classes to understand the topics better, and asked for clarifications when needed.
I learned that time management is necessary in one’s life. Secondly, it was not easy for me to write this speech, I struggled, and at last I was determined to do it with joy, notwithstanding all difficulties. All of you, the professors, the students, friends, and fellow graduates, can bear witness that it is not an easy road. However, our professors helped to make it easy for us. They are not only our professors, they are like friends, sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers; they are among the students teaching and guiding them.
All my professors are special, especially, Professor Kumar who cared for me as a mother cares for her children. Being a mother to someone implies so many things that everybody knows; I wouldn’t be able to mention them all. Our professors encouraged and taught us, so that we can still keep going as we have struggled to reach where we are today. No one has ever had it all easy. Lily Tomlinson said, “The road to success is always under construction.” Passaic County Community College has given us a great honor, and it is not going to stop here, this is just the beginning of our life.
I can’t express all I have in mind, but all I can say is thank you all for helping in making us who we are academically, socially, and otherwise. You helped us to adapt during the winter and summer of our lives. We have planted our shoe of wisdom in this school, as we are marching out with footsteps of success. We want to let you know that we will never forget what you have done for us. All of us here, and others who supported us, but could not come, are all in this our achievement together. Finally, the one who has had the most influence in my life is God. Again, congratulations Class of 2017. Thank you all and God bless you.

Karream Sheard_NASA

Karream Sheard

Associate in Science Degree
in Liberal Arts/ Engineering Science

• NASA Community College Aerospace Scholar
• President: Engineering Club
• Team Leader: 16th Annual North Jersey Robotics Competition
• Tutor: STEM B2B

His Success is a Tribute to Teamwork

“You cannot be a success on your own,” says Karream Sheard, a 41-year-old STEM student who will receive his A.S. degree in Liberal Arts/Engineering Science this month. “There is always someone at the top of the ladder, helping to pull you up.”

Years ago, when he was much lower on that ladder, Karream could not have imagined that he would one day be named a NASA scholar and build a space rover, be elected president of an Engineering Club, lead a robotics team into competition, and become a mentor to others.
But his climb up the ladder was not always easy, and there was even a time when he lost his footing.

Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, Karream once planned to become a traveling missionary, but changes in his life drove him in another direction. “One that was not good,” he admits.

Though the East Orange native graduated in 1993 from Essex County Vo-Tech High School, he was not particularly motivated. “I was rebellious in high school and as a teenager,” said Karream.

For a time he worked in scrap metal, a job with little promise for the future. Yet, in the back of his mind was a promise Karream had once made to his mother. “I told her I was going to become an engineer,” he said.

By his late 30’s, Kareem held a full-time job at Nabisco, but realized he wanted a life change.
“I wanted more and knew I had to do something different to have the life I wanted,” he said.

He also remembered the promise he had made to his mother. “I decided to go into mechanical engineering,” Karream said. “It suited my personality, since I always liked tinkering and building things.”

In 2013, Karream enrolled at PCCC, attending evening classes while working full-time. “I worked 60 or 70 hours a week,” he said. Without a car, he took buses from work to school, sometimes arriving late and exhausted. “A few times, I fell asleep during class,” he confided.

As an older student who had been out of school for two decades, Karream at first tried to hurry through his courses in an effort to make up for lost time. “After a while, I realized that wasn’t the best approach,” he said.

Also, he was gradually discovering a love for learning. “I saw how math built on itself,” said Kareeam. “One course connected to the next, expanding knowledge, and that fascinated me.”

He credits math professor Janet Delaney for having “the patience of a saint” and giving him the support and encouragement to continue.
But it was in the PCCC STEM program that Karream hit his stride. “Once I discovered STEM, I hung out there all the time,” he said. “You’re around people who share the same experience. You talk shop, form study groups, take courses together and help each other.”

This spring, Karream was one of 19 PCCC STEM students selected for the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program and one of 14 chosen to attend an on-site conference at a NASA location.

“NASA was great,” said Karream who had built a Mars rover for a workshop course. “I appreciated working with a diverse group of people, and realized that gaining knowledge of how to get things done as a team is more important than learning about a particular subject.”
Karream plans to continue his studies toward a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology in the Fall. Though he will pursue a STEM career, he has not narrowed down his options, and is no longer in a rush to catch up.

“Time is nothing if you have a plan,” says Kareem, sounding like the missionary he once aspired to become. “Some things don’t come naturally, but you have to take a chance anyway. Be brave.”


Carlos Macazana

A.S. Liberal Arts/Biology

• Graduates with High Honors
• Phi Theta Kappa
• Research Experiences for Undergraduates – 2017
• Presenter: STEM C2 Summit 2017
• STEM Bronx Zoo Internship

The Evolution of an Indifferent High Schooler to Biology Researcher

“I just found out I had my first 4.0 semester,” Carlos Macazana said excitedly a week before his PCCC graduation. The perfect GPA is just one of the young scientist’s recent academic high points, all of which represent his evolution from a high school who “didn’t care about education,” into a passionate biology researcher, highly regarded for his work ethic and accomplishments.

On May 18, six days after he celebrates his 20th birthday, Carlos will receive his Associate in Science degree in Liberal Arts/Biology with the Class of 2017.

Last April, Carlos presented a scientific research project at the STEM C2 Summit, a conference of schools and business allied to increase STEM studies and careers. He and his research mentors/collaborators will have their research published later this spring. (Read more)

In the coming weeks, Carlos will complete a STEM internship at the Bronx Zoo where he is researching the activity patterns of the North American brown bear.

Plus, he has been accepted for the prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates program this summer at Rutgers University. The study program is funded by the National Science Foundation.

A Paterson resident, Carlos came to the U.S. from his native Peru at age 6 with his family. He attended local schools and graduated in 2015 from Passaic County Technical Institute, a high school where he had specialized in Automotive Technology.

“I enjoyed automotive, but knew I didn’t want it as a career,” said Carlos. “I thought of it only as a life skill that would be useful.”

With a low GPA and undistinguished high school record, Carlos was unsure of what his next step would be. Then, he received an invitation from PCCC to attend a College Success class over the summer.

“That class had an effect on me,” he said. “The teacher shared about her personal experience and struggles, and it all made me realize I needed to take school more seriously.”

Carlos enrolled in PCCC in Fall 2015 and first majored in computer science, because he enjoyed playing computer games. A few classes in, he changed his mind. “I realized I didn’t want to spend my future sitting at a desk, being on a computer, so I gave some serious thought to what I did want to do.”

He liked animals and decided to pursue a veterinary career, but it was in a biology class with Professor Kala Mayur that Carlos discovered his true passion.

“I enjoyed research and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “In research you can be your own boss and focus on material that interests you. That’s not true of most jobs.”

Carlos was drawn to the atmosphere of the lab and “the way researchers work as a community.” He also liked the fact that research offered ongoing opportunities to gain knowledge, “something else most jobs don’t offer,” he said.

He was also thrilled by the opportunities available to him through PCCC’s B2B (Bridges to Baccalaureate)
initiative, which enabled him to perform the research projects at the Bronx Zoo and C2 Summit.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity that was given to me because it has truly changed my life and life goals,” said Carlos. “ I could not have done any of this without the help of the B2B program here in PCCC, and especially without the assistance of (science) Professor Thomas van Aken and Professor Kala Mayur.”

The youngest of three brothers, Carlos will be the first in his family to earn a college degree. “My parents encouraged me,” he said. “My father told me that without an education, I wouldn’t get far and would always be limited.”

In September, Carlos will enter a bachelor’s degree program at Rutgers University. “I know my future will be in biology, but I haven’t decided on the specific direction yet,” he said.

Grateful for the opportunities he received at PCCC, Carlos said he would encourage anyone who didn’t know what they wanted to do in life to come to a community college.

“You’ll save money, and if you weren’t the brightest star in high school, PCCC gives you a chance to start over again.”

Doris Pagan

A.S. in Human Services

• Graduates with Highest Honors
• 2017 Graduating Speaker
• Human Services Academic Excellence Award
• All USA-Academic Team
• Phi Theta Kappa Coca-Cola Silver Scholar
• Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges

A Silver Scholar Whose Time Has Come

When Doris Pagan learned she had been named a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Coca-Cola Silver Scholar, she was stunned. “I couldn’t believe it,” said the 41-year-old who did not think an older student would be selected. She also had other doubts. “I wondered if I deserved it,” she said. (Read more)

Then Doris recalled the list of accomplishments and projects she had submitted in her application to PTK, the international honor society for two-year colleges, and realized she did indeed deserve to be among the 50 students chosen from across the nation as a 2017 Silver Scholar, an honor that carries a $1.250 scholarship award. “I really did a lot,” she said.

Doris was also one of two PCCC students named to this year’s All-State Academic Team for community colleges in New Jersey. She and Zenya Koporowski were honored earlier this month at a ceremony in Trenton. (Read more)

Proud of and grateful for the opportunities she gained as a member of Alpha Eta Chi, the PCCC chapter of PTK, Doris said she is most appreciative of the service activities. “Service is so important,” said the Clifton resident whose personal history is all about caring…for others and for oneself.

Doris grew up in Paterson and graduated in 1993 from JFK High School where she was among the top ten students in her graduating class.

As a writer for her high school newspaper, Doris had won a summer workshop scholarship in journalism to Rider College and decided to pursue that field.

She went on to Rutgers University in New Brunswick as a journalism major, but left after only two years.
“I was not well prepared for a four-year university,” said Doris. “Being away from home for the first time was hard, but there were also other issues.”

At Rutgers, Doris discovered she had not read the same books in high school as most of her college classmates and also lacked the math courses they had. “Besides that,” she said, “I had to work and became a work study.”

She withdrew from college, returned home, and attended cosmetology school, then later trained in massage therapy. “I feel like I’ve always been going to school,” she said laughing.

The appeal of those fields, though, is consistent with Doris” commitment to service. “Caring for others is important, but so is self-care,” she said. “When people take care of their skin and their bodies, they take care of themselves.”

Though she worked at a salon for several years, Doris took a more conventional career path as a secretary, first with Marriott and later at (then) Barnert Hospital in Paterson and Hackensack University Medical Center.

Since 2013, she has been a project director at the Paterson Education Fund (PEF), a non-profit that encourages community action to maintain strong educational standards in local public schools.
I enjoy this work, and I love my boss, Rosie Grant,” said Doris. “She’s awesome.”

When PEF advised her she would need a bachelor’s degree, Doris enrolled in PCCC in 2014.
At first, she just did only what was needed to do to fulfill course requirements. “I had a job and school, so I didn’t want to take on much more,” said Doris.

However, her academic performance was being noticed, and Doris felt inspired. “I became more focused,” she said. “I became more involved and wanted to see how far I could go.”

This week, Doris marks two important milestones. On Thursday, she will graduate from PCCC. Two days later, May 20, she will marry the man she calls “the love of my life.” In both cases, time brought the fulfillment of college and love that didn’t happen the first time around.

Doris met Juan Salgado, now a deejay, nearly a decade ago in New York when he needed a vocalist for a recording session. Doris, who was singing professionally at the time, landed the gig. They became a couple for a time, but then went their separate ways. “I always knew he was the one for me,” said Doris. When they reconnected, time proved her right.

In September, the multi-talented graduate will enter a bachelor’s degree program in social work at Seton Hall University, and she hopes to eventually enter clinical work.

Reflecting on her time at PCCC, Doris said, “The professors have been great, especially Professor (Michael) D’Arcangelo and Professor (Jennifer) Gasparino,” both of Human Services. She added,
“I’ve been helped at PCCC in a way I don’t think I would have been in another college.”

A Reflection by Doris Pagan

Presented May 18, 2017 at the
PCCC 45th Annual Commencement

Good evening Dr. Rose, Dr. Kineavy, Chairman Nutter and the Board of Trustees, Members of the Board of Chosen Freeholder, Dean Fallon and Distinguished Administrators, Faculty, Family, Friends, and my fellow graduates.

It is an honor to be here as the 2017 Coca Cola All-USA Silver Scholar, and it is a privilege to share my experience with all of you. Earlier this year I was nominated for, and chosen as the NJ All-USA Academic Team. Because of this award, my application was to be considered for the 2017 Coca Cola All-USA scholarship. I never imagined I would be chosen at the International level, let alone reach the Silver Scholar award. I admit, I was unsure of my assets when asked to complete the application, but I was reminded that I am a dedicated member of Phi Theta Kappa, a determined and focused student, and committed member of my church. It then became easy to explain how I represent Phi Theta Kappa’s 4 hallmarks, Leadership, Service, Scholarship, and Fellowship, both on and off campus.

As a student, I persevere. I dropped out of college in 1995 for two reasons, I chose the wrong major and I did not have enough money to finish, very typical reasons for many students. What made me decide to return to school was the great opportunity I was offered to be Program Director of the Paterson Education Fund. I was offered the job, but one thing I needed to do was to get my baccalaureate degree. It was a decision that was difficult for me, knowing it would be hard work, but I knew it was a great opportunity, and it was a great way to push me to finish what I started back in 1993. After all these years, I am finally pursuing my dream, social work.

I work for an organization where I help students. Every day I work to demonstrate to these students that there is no limit to what they can achieve. I want to be a testimony for them. When returning to school, I knew I would be the first in my family to get a baccalaureate degree, which is something I have always dreamed of, and now I am here, not only receiving my degree, but having the opportunity of sharing this experience with all of you. Knowing that the education I am pursuing will help me help others, motivates me to stay focused and drives me to persist. I do not intend on hoarding my knowledge, but sharing it and helping others expand on theirs as well.

Honestly, I was naïve about the magnitude of this honor, I really completed the application to appease my advisor, Professor Gasparino, but was sure I wouldn’t be awarded anything. When I immersed myself in the application, I quickly realized I had a lot of life experiences and thought, well maybe I do have a chance at this.

I was notified of the awards both at the state and the international level and I was so excited; however, it was not really until I attended PTK Catalyst, Phi Theta Kappa’s International Convention and then on to PTK day in Trenton, that I quickly became aware of my success. To find out I was one out of 150 students nationally and one of 39 students statewide to be chosen for this award was AMAZING!
My age doesn’t matter, my gender doesn’t matter, my race doesn’t matter. I matter because of the hard work I put in. And I am especially grateful to all those who have helped me to know my worth and all those who have supported me and pushed me to do my best. I did not do this by myself. A key lesson I learned in this process: To be amazing you need to allow others to support you and help you grow. That is why the saying, “It takes a village” rings so true.

I am proud to be a product of the Paterson Public Schools and now of Passaic County Community College, and as I said earlier, I do not want to hoard the knowledge I have attained, but rather share it and help to grow and support others to reach their full potential and be amazing too.

I was accepted at Seton Hall University where I intend to complete my baccalaureate degree in social work, but I am not stopping there – I fully intend to obtain a Master of Social Work degree. I know that continuing my education will be beneficial in the position I now hold in my organization, and I also know it will take time, but once again, I am a person who perseveres, and I intend to continue doing so.

Phi Theta Kappa has been instrumental in helping me achieve my fullest potential while being at PCCC and I am so thankful I decided to join. The members, the organization, and my advisor, have all been a support system and have pushed me to do more and be more. PTK has also opened up opportunities I would not have had. The four hallmarks, Leadership, Service, Scholarship, and Fellowship are at the heart of our chapter and something that we, that I, strive for every day.

In addition there have been others who have been instrumental in my life:

God is number one!

My mom who always has my back and has been my biggest cheerleader,

My father who has always been there for me also,

My fiancé who always believes in me and tells me I can do anything,

My friends and family, especially my best friend Sarah, who is like my sister, and my boss, Rosie Grant, Executive Director of the Paterson Education Fund, who has allowed me to grow while mentoring me.

As different as we all are, we all want the same thing: to better ourselves and help others be their best. I cannot forget my professors, Professor Jennifer Gasparino who is an inspiration to me and my mentor; Professor Mike D’Arcangelo, who has so much knowledge to share; Professor Maretta Hodges, who allows people to be who they are and helps them to shine; and to all the other professors who have helped me learn and grow, I thank you. I’d also like to thank Professor Gasparino and Professor Risher who helped me prepare for today.

We can all shine in our own way; we just need to allow ourselves to do so and know that we are worth it!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! I am honored to celebrate with all of you and wish you all the best on your journey. Thank you!

Suzette Bradshaw

A.S. Health Science

Detours Did Not Deter Her From Dreams of a Nursing Career

“Nursing was always a passion for me,” said Suzette Bradshaw. “I was raised by my grandmother in Jamaica, and when I was three years old, I told her, “Grandma, I’m going to be a nurse.”

Today, Suzette is a 33-year-old mother of two who will receive her Associate in Science degree in Health Science on Thursday. It is not the nursing degree she had hoped for, and though she is pleased to be graduating, she is still determined to become a registered nurse, despite facing challenges that might have discouraged anyone else.

Suzette came to the U.S. in 2011 with some nurse training she acquired in Jamaica, but encountered the first obstacle to achieving her chosen career. “My credits earned in Jamaica were not accepted here,” she said.

So the young woman found a way to enter her dream field, working full-time as a certified nurse’s aide for the Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne. She also enrolled in classes at PCCC toward her nursing degree.

Then, while juggling work and school, she became pregnant…with twins. “I can tell you, I was tired,” said Suzette who continued working full-time and going to school throughout her pregnancy.

Her daughters, Kaylin and Kaliah are now 2 ½ years old and love crawling all over their mom’s books and papers as she tries to study at home. “They rock my life,” said the happy parent, who took on motherhood gracefully.

Suzette was not so fortunate, though, when she took the TEAS test, the exam required for admission to the PCCC nursing program. “I didn’t score high enough to be accepted,” she said.

Undeterred, she took the advice of a PCCC counselor and applied her PCCC credits toward a degree in Health Science. Then, she enrolled in an associate degree nursing program at Eastern International College, attending classes there at the same time she attends PCCC.

“I love it,” said Suzette who will graduate from Eastern in 2018 and hopes to eventually work as a Public Health nurse.

Amazingly, she works six days a week from 11 pm – 7 am, attends PCCC and Eastern part-time, and mothers her two girls with support and help from her husband Rohan Afflick, a construction worker. “He really enjoys playing with the girls,” said Suzette who said she sleeps only three hours a night.

As if this were not enough, a fire last March in the Paterson building where Suzette lives with her family caused all the residents to be displaced.

“Thank God no one in the building was injured,” she said, “but there was not heat or water, so we couldn’t live there.”

The family was placed in temporary quarters in Englewood for three weeks, far from home, PCCC, and the twins’ day care center. “It was really hard going back and forth,” Suzette said.

Despite these challenges, Suzette remains upbeat. “If I want something, I pursue it,” she said with calm assurance, much of it attributed to her faith. A devout Seventh Day Adventist, Suzette also tries to give some time to her church. “I can’t do as much as I would like right now, but I do what I can,” she explained.

She speaks passionately and from personal experience gained through her job about the need for a more holistic standard for judging applicants to nursing programs. “It’s not all about passing a test,” she said. “You have to put care, empathy, sympathy…your whole body into it.”

Suzette admits that her daily duties caring for people who have dementia or depression, and others who are forgotten by their families can sometimes take a toll, especially on a compassionate person. “There have been days when I feel like I want to give up,” she admits, though it’s hard to believe she would. “When I feel that way, I go to the salon,” Suzette said, laughing. “You feel better when you get taken care of.”

It’s not surprising this nurturing woman had also once considered a career in culinary arts. “I’ve been cooking for a whole family, since I was 11,” said Suzette who learned her culinary skills from her grandmother and often served as household chef while growing up.

Her husband, also from Jamaica, shares her interest in food. In fact, the pair are considering opening a Jamaican restaurant in Paterson.

“I can tell you this,” said Suzette. “Our food will be good and it will be authentic.” That description sounds much like the chef – and future nurse- herself.

Zenya Koprowski

A.S. Degree in Business Administration

• Graduates with High Honors
• NJ Stars Scholarship
• Phi Theta Kappa
• 2017 All-State Academic Team
• Robert A. Shea Memorial Award
• Graduate Leadership Award
• Honors Program Graduate Award
• Who’s Who Among Students in American Unversities & Colleges

Natural Leader Found Her Path at PCCC

“I almost fell off my chair,” was the reaction of honor student Zenya Koprowski when she learned at the May 16 Graduate and Academic Awards ceremony that she was a recipient of the 2017 Graduate Leadership Award.

“It was an honor and I’m very grateful,” said Zenya, who will receive her A.S. Degree in Business Administration  this week. One of two recipients of this year’s leadership award, Zenya was called “a natural leader” who “inspired trust” in others by the award presenter, Dean Sharon Goldstein.

“I never really thought of myself as a leader or went after leadership positions,” Zenya explained. “I just decide to do something, and then people like it and ask me to do more.”

Clearly, she knows how to get things accomplished. Zenya is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and was named to the 2017 All-State Academic Team.  She is the winner of the 2017 Honors Program Graduate Award (Watch the video of Zenya’s speech) and also a recipient of PCCC’s 2017 Robert A. Shea Memorial Graduate Award, a prestigious honor given for both academic achievement and service to the College.

“I was so happy to receive the Shea award,” she said. “There’s a history behind it, so that makes it even more special.” The award was established by the family of a founding faculty member of PCCC  and Zenya was able to meet members of the family at the ceremony.  “That was meaningful,” she said.

A Ringwood resident and graduate of Lakeland Regional High School where she played varsity lacrosse for four years – two of them as team captain – Zenya graduated in the top 15 per cent of her class and was named a NJ Star, an honor that comes with free tuition at a NJ community college.

“The tuition was a big reason why I chose to attend PCCC,” she explained.  Zenya had been accepted at numerous New Jersey colleges, but decided that financially and emotionally, community college was a better choice for her.

“I didn’t feel ready for a four-year college,” said the young scholar who wanted to continue living at home and working at her part-time job in a day care center.  “I didn’t want to be thrown into the deep end of the pool,” she said, using a metaphor to describe her college choice. “I wanted to ease into college and community college gave me that option.”

A business major, Zenya also said PCCC enabled her to explore her chosen field and narrow down the areas that appeal to her. “I discovered I don’t like marketing, but am very interested in finance,” she said.

Thoughtful and altruistic, Zenya envisions a future where she can use her business and financial skills to help others. “I would like to help people understand and use their finances, so they can have a better life,” she explained.


“My parents instilled those values in me,” said Zenya, who is very close to her family. “My father always told me that whatever I decide to do, it’s important to leave the world a better place than I found it.”

Though Zenya plans to continue her education in a bachelor’s degree program, she is still undecided about the school. “I’m thinking of Boston University, Stevens (Institute of Technology), or Rutgers,”
she said. “They’re all great choices.”

Of her two years at PCCC, Zenya said, “I had opportunities here I never would have had at another college. PCCC has been a really great experience for me.  All my professors were great and really cared about their students.”

When asked if any courses had changed her plans or perspective, she shot back, “Perspective!  It has to be philosophy with Professor (Petar)  Drakulich.  He really changes the way you look at life,” she said.
“He’s incredible and believes so much in what he does. He’s like a Gandhi to me.”

Zenya encourages students considering a community college to go for it. “It’s smart to save money, especially if you don’t know yet what you want to do.”  She added, “Your education can be what you make of it.  The opportunities are there for you. PCCC has so much to offer. Take advantage of everything given to you and be appreciative of what you can have here.”

O’Shane Williams

A.A. in Liberal Arts/Studio Arts

• Graduates with Honors
• Phi Theta Kappa
• PTK Hall of Fame; Distinguished Chapter Member, Second Place
• Honors Program
• Graduate Studio Arts Award
• Graduate Service Award
• Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities

Receiving a “C” in History Was The Catalyst for His Academic Achievement

O’Shane Williams, who received his A.A. degree in Studio Arts at the 45th Commencement last week, sums up his experience at PCCC as “eye-opening and life changing.”

Ironically, the honor student and recipient of several academic awards considers one of the most “eye-opening” experiences he had at PCCC to be the “C” grade he received in a Western Civilization class.

“I was upset,” admitted O’Shane. “It shot my GPA down and that was heartbreaking, “he said. “But that grade made me aware of the effort I would have to make to succeed in college and also motivated me to  improve my work ethic.”

O’Shane went on to enroll in the Honors Program, earn distinction as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, graduate with honors, and win the  both the 2017 Graduate Studio Arts Award and Graduate Service Award.

“It’s been exciting and exhausting,” said O’Shane the day after graduation, as he talked about his plans for the future and reflected on how far he has come since his youth, growing up in what he called “a rough area” of Kingston, Jamaica.

O’Shane recalls walking home from school and hearing shots ring out. “You couldn’t tell where they were coming from,” he said. “It was nerve wracking.”

Though he said that type of violence was the norm in Kingston, O’Shane said it did not prevent him from enjoying his childhood. “I played with my friends, took Tae Kwan Do, and liked school,” he said.

His artistic talent emerged early. “A few people in my family are artistic, so maybe I inherited that,”
said O’Shane. As a first grader, he liked to sketch cartoon characters. Later, during what he calls “my curious stage,” O’Shane experimented with a variety of media and materials, especially in his high school art classes.  “I challenged myself to explore a little of everything,” he said.

A good student, but not what he called “one of the really high-achievers,” O’Shane graduated from Calabar High School in Kingston.  “The classes there were hard,” he said. “When I came to PCCC, I felt my high school classes prepared me well for college.”

At age 17, O’Shane came with his and his mother and two sisters to Paterson to live with his grandmother, a decision made due to the high costs and other struggles of living in Jamaica.
“Coming here was a huge culture shock,” he said. “At first, I had a hard time adjusting.”

A turning point came when O’Shane enrolled in PCCC.  “I liked the school,” he said. “I was getting A’s, making friends, and feeling more comfortable in this society.”

But when his grandmother had to declare bankruptcy and lost the house they all lived in, O’Shane took a break from college, working two part-time jobs to help the family.

In Fall 2014, he was able to return to PCCC part-time, while still working.  “I developed an eagerness for learning” said O’Shane.  “Every day when I went to class, I wanted to learn something new.”

In the Honors Program, O’Shane took on on a more rigorous course of study. His academic achievement won him an invitation to join PTK, where he became deeply involved in service projects and also assumed leadership roles, serving as Public Relations Director of Alpha Eta Chi, PCCC’s chapter of PTK.  “It was very rewarding to see the impact of my efforts,” he said.

For his dedication to PTK, O’Shane was nominated by the chapter for this year’s Most Distinguished Chapter Member award. Competing against nominees from over 80 chapters in the Middle States Region, O’Shane captured second place and was also named to the PTK Hall of Fame.  “I was so surprised,” he said. “It was really a great honor, and I’m grateful.”

“PCCC has prepared me well for my future,” said O’Shane who envisions a career in automobile design.
His love for cars began around  age 12 when he was captivated by the beauty of a Mercedes-Benz. “To me a car is a work of art,” he said.

O’Shane plans to work at a New York marketing agency over the summer and enter a bachelor’s degree program this fall to study Industrial Design and Transportation at New Jersey Institute of Technology. “It was a top school on my list,” he said.

Continuing to develop his other artistic skills is a priority for O’Shane, who admires the work of Andy Warhol and Basquiat.  “I’d like to keep in the field and exhibit my work,” he said.

O’Shane also expressed his gratitude for Professor Mary Dajnak, coordinator of the Studio Arts program at PCCC. “I owe her thanks for overseeing my development and accomplishments,” he said. “She allowed me to grow and nominated me for the graduate and service awards,” he said. “I am very thankful to her and to PCCC.”

Commencement News & Stories 

Class of 2017

Posted 5-19-17

On a sultry, midsummer-like day yesterday, over 1100 graduates received associate degrees and certificates in two ceremonies at the Passaic County Community College 45th Annual Commencement, held at the Main Campus in Paterson. The Class of 2017 “is one of the largest we’ve ever had,” said Dr. Steven Rose, the college president to the audience of graduates, faculty, administrators, guests, and enthusiastic friends and family of the grads who applauded, cheered, and sometimes expressed themselves loudly. “I love you mommy,” a little voice rang out, at one point, drawing laughter and more applause.

Standing on the dais before a backdrop of 36 flags representing the diversity of birth nations in the Class of 2017,  guest speakers offered inspiration and advice to the Class of 2017.

“Because of us, you are. Because of you, we are,” said PCCC Trustee Harvey J. Nutter, emphasizing the connection of the College to the wider community.

Passaic County Freeholder Theodore Best, told the graduates that many of the faculty and administrators sitting in the audience had risen to their current positions from humble beginnings. “You are the bright future,” he assured the graduating class.

Dr. Lawrence Nespoli, President of the NJ Council of County Colleges, told the Class of 2017, “I want you to feel good about being a community college graduate,” adding that community colleges are “one of America’s great success stories.” Noting that there are currently 12 million community college students nationwide,  Dr. Nespoli  called PCCC “one of the finest community colleges in the country.”

Graduate Doris Pagan, a 2017 Coca Cola Silver Scholar, offered a reflection on her journey to achieve college success at age 41, after dropping out of a university nearly two decades ago. “You can’t do it alone,” she said, thanking family, friends, and faculty who supported her success.  “It takes a village.”

Sheila Varela, valedictorian at the morning ceremony, set aside her educational aspirations when she married a man who had custody of his three children. “I was 24 and had no experience, but instantly became a mother to three,” she said. Later, she gave birth to a fourth child. While raising her family and working, Sheila returned to college and graduated with her associate’s degree in early childhood education.

“This is your time,” Sheila told her fellow graduates. “We shouldn’t stop here. We should take upon ourselves new goals to accomplish. There will be obstacles, but, just as we have gotten here today, any goals that we set our mind to, we can accomplish.”

Sister Monica Ama, delivered the valedictory at the evening ceremony, urging her fellow graduates to “be you, be now, be here,” to leave the past behind, to not worry about the future, but to seize the moment. “Accept every opportunity presented to you.”

Surprising the audience at the first ceremony, Dr. Rose awarded an honorary degree. “It’s only the second time we’ve done this,” he said. The Honorary Associate in Applied Science degree went to Eddie Valentin, who started his employment as a custodian at PCCC in 1979 and will retire this year, after several promotions, from his position as plant manager. “He was 17 when he came to the College and his salary then was $5000, a year,” said Dr. Rose, calling Mr. Valentin “one of the most dedicated employees to serve the College.”

After conferring the awards and certificates, Dr. Rose urged the students to continue learning throughout the lives and to “go out in the world and make a difference.” A lively reception in the PCCC cafeteria followed each ceremony.

Commencement Photos 

Photos by Luis Ruiz

Academic & Graduate Awards Ceremony Photos 

Photos by Luis Ruiz

Nurse Education Pinning Ceremony Photos 

Photos by Luis Ruiz

Academic & Graduate Awards Ceremony Program