"I've had great opportunities and some pretty solid experience at PCCC."

Opting for Opportunity at PCCC

“Take every opportunity you can,” advises alumna Jehan Shalabi (’20 ) to current and future PCCC students. Jehan speaks from experience. Following a stellar academic career at PCCC and NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology), Jehan is now in a PhD program at Purdue University on a full-tuition fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The Paterson native and first-generation college student hopes to become a NASA engineer and astronaut. She credits the “fantastic opportunities” at PCCC for her success.

“Jehan took advantage of every opportunity offered to her,” says Carlomagno Ontaneda, PCCC’s recruiter for the EOF (Educational Opportunity Fund), STEM, and TRiO SSS STEM programs.  “We want everyone to know that if students come to PCCC, these incredible opportunities are available to them, too, free of charge.”

Those include scholarships, exciting research internships with prestigious organizations, such as NASA and the NSF, leadership training in government settings, competitions in robotics and computer science, and much more.  “When students complete an internship or training program successfully, that often leads to offers of even more opportunities,” says Mr. Ontaneda. “Students build a resume that attracts attention.”

The EOF and TRIO SSS STEM support programs both assist students, especially those who are first generation college students, in adjusting to college studies and enhancing their skills to be ready for opportunity.

PCCC recruiter Carlomagno Ontaneda with alumna Jehan Shalabi  ’20, a PhD student at Purdue University.

“We offer financial support, free summer programs, tutoring, and ongoing counseling in an atmosphere of family support” says EOF director Enrique Noguera, who understands what students who are facing particular challenges need to succeed.

Sebastian Cano Guzman and Sheyla Verastegui are both 2022 graduates of Paterson’s Garrett Morgan Academy where they were valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

“I started in the summer STEM program and also spent time at EOF,” says Sebastian who turned down a full scholarship at another college to attend PCCC.  “I wanted to go to college nearby and improve on what I already have,” he explains.  Sebastian plans to major in nursing and eventually attend medical school. “PCCC has been really great,” he says. “People here are really interested helping students.”

Sheyla is in the NJ Stars program, a state-funded program that covers tuition at a community college for students who graduate from high school in the top 15 per cent of their class. “That was a good reason to choose PCCC, but I also explored some four-year colleges and didn’t feel ready for that yet,” she says.

Though Sheyla was a top student in high school, she felt the need for more support to transition to college. EOF has provided that for her.  Additionally, she prefers the smaller class sizes at PCCC and is impressed by the professors here.   “PCCC exceeded my expectations,” says Sheyla who seeks a career in psychology.

Jeremy Urena, a 2022 graduate of the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) Diana C. Lobosco STEM Academy, jumped into PCCC full force. “Mr. Ontaneda gave me a clear path to what I can do at PCCC,” says Jeremy.  He has completed a summer program with STEM, participated in a three-day Hackathon software development event at Princeton, and also received a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) internship.  .

A computer engineering major, Jeremy is already a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society, and he joined the Men of Color Success Initiative (MOCSI), a support group for male-identifying students  that emphasizes mentoring for academic achievement, career search, and general life skills.  “ Overall, I’ve had some great opportunities and pretty solid experience at PCCC,” says Jeremy.

Anthony Reyes of Clifton, a computer science major, looks to continue his undergraduate education at Purdue and prepare for a career as a software developer.  A participant in EOF, STEM, and PTK, Anthony was also part of the Year Up Program, which offers students training and internship opportunities related to their field of study.  Anthony has completed a corporate internship with a major company and envisions himself working in the corporate world. “The Year Up opportunity enabled me to grow and gather insight into the profession I am considering,” says Anthony.

These are just a few of the PCCC students who are advancing academically, gaining professional experience, developing leadership skills, and thriving personally at PCCC.

Jihan Ahmed, the director of TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) STEM at PCCC, noted that the students she works with succeed as a result of the many opportunities and resources PCCC provides, such as mentoring, personal and career coaching, workshops about financial literacy, and much more, but they also thrive on the communal spirit that underlies the way PCCC delivers these support services.

“In the SSS-STEM program,” says Ms. Ahmed, students study, learn, and network with each other while attaining a sense of community, belonging, and commitment to their and others’ success.”

To learn more, please contact Mr. Carlomagno Ontaneda at [email protected] or call 973-684-6112.

(Top Photo L to R: Jihan Ahmed, Director of TRiO Support Services; Dennis Reer , Director STEM; Sheyla Verastgui, Anthony Reyes, alumna Jehan Shalabi, Sebastian Cano Guzman, Jeremy Urena, and Enrique Noguera, Director EOF. )