Dozens of students flocked to the Student Life Center patio on Oct. 18 for an afternoon of snacks, games and prize giveaways offered as part of this year’s New Jersey Community College Completion Challenge (NJC4), hosted by the Brookdale chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK).
The initiative, sponsored at all of New Jersey’s 19 community colleges by the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Council of County Colleges’ Center for Student Success, is designed to encourage students to earn an associate degree before transferring or entering the workforce.
“Once you earn that degree, you will always have it, no matter what,” said PTK co-advisor and Brookdale chemistry professor Shahin Pirzad. “Many students think they don’t need an associate degree because they are going on to earn a bachelor’s, but then something comes up – an illness, a family emergency, financial troubles. They can no longer attend school and have to leave. Now they have all these student loans and nothing to show for it. We want our students to avoid that situation by earning a degree and making the most of their time at Brookdale.”
Brookdale’s week-long NJC4 celebration kicked off with a free college hour carnival offering free popcorn and shaved ice, a pie-throwing booth, prize giveaways and a wealth of information on the benefits of earning an associate degree. Attendees were encouraged to sign unofficial pledge cards promising to earn a Brookdale degree and add their name to an oversized NJC4 banner.
“They aren’t making a promise to us, or to some stranger,” said PTK co-advisor and associate English professor Angela Saragusa. “They are making a promise to themselves, one we hope they will remember when they are making important decisions about their education.
“Students who have an associate degree – rather than just a high school diploma – earn far more over the course of their lifetime and are less likely to struggle in their personal and professional lives. We try to make it fun, but we also believe this is a very important initiative for students.”
Attendees were also able to pay a few dollars to throw pies and water balloons at a clown, as part of the Brookdale’s PTK chapter’s fundraising efforts to support education in Ghana. This year the club will also offer free peer mentoring services and host community outreach initiatives in Monmouth County as part of their 2016-17 campaign: “The Power of Education.”
The NJC4 initiative continued at Brookdale on Oct. 20 with a free University Transfer Workshop on the Lincroft campus. The workshop, hosted by PTK, featured representatives from Rutgers University, Monmouth University, Rider University, New Jersey City University, Montclair State University and The College of New Jersey, who were on hand to provide information to prospective transfer students, answer questions and discuss exclusive transfer services and benefits available to Brookdale graduates.
The workshop drew a standing-room-only crowd of students, Brookdale officials and NJCCC representatives, including Brookdale President Dr. Maureen Murphy, Vice President of Student Success David Stout, NJCCC Director of Communications Jacob Farbman and NJC4 consultant Louis Venturelli. Attendees were also able to add their name to PTK’s NJC4 pledge banner, which contained more than 100 signatures by week’s end.
“We saw a great turnout,” said Brookdale business major and PTK vice president of membership Matt Sufaro. “Our goal is to reach as many students as possible, and encourage them to earn an associate degree. I know what it’s like to plan on transferring and be looking ahead to your bachelor’s degree, but you need to earn that degree here first. You never know what can happen, and you’re going to want something to fall back on, just in case.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Brookdale chemistry major Ikrom Ibrahim, one of the dozens of Brookdale students who chose to sign the NJC4 pledge banner on Oct. 18.
“I have high hopes of graduating this year, and it’s very important to me,” said Ibrahim, after tossing a few pies at the PTK clown. “An associate degree is a great thing to have. Whether you’re relying on it to get a job, or just to improve your college transcript or a scholarship application, you know you will always have that wherever you go.”
Learn more about Brookdale’s PTK chapter here.
Check out more photos of the NJC4 events here.