Hudson County Community College’s Class of 2012 Reflects the ‘New’ Face of College Students

Posted: 5/22/2012
Jennifer Christopher 201-360-4061 jchristopher@hccc.edu or Roger Jones 201-200-1080 rj@j-a-c.com
Full-time workers, immigrants, armed services veterans, single moms and 

fifty-something-years-young men and women among the 1,060 students who will receive Associate degrees at the College’s 34th Commencement. 


Jersey City, NJ – “We all have a story; our stories consist of both amazing and horrific moments. We all have experienced bumps and tribulations along the way, and at one point we have made choices that sometimes leave regret.” So wrote Danielle Travelino of Bayonne, referring to her own experience and those of her fellow graduates in Hudson County Community College’s Class of 2012.

The 28-year-old mom first began her college studies at a university in 2001, but after just a month, she withdrew from classes. Three years later, Danielle attempted to restart her college career at the same university, but at the time she considered going to school “a chore.”

Ms. Travelino reports that she found herself at a crossroads about returning to college, and the birth of her daughter Gabriella provided the impetus to enroll at Hudson County Community College in 2009. Working full-time, parenting her daughter, and taking classes full-time certainly created a certain amount of pressure, but she persevered, carried a grade-point-average of 3.928, made the Dean’s List every semester, and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community colleges.

On Wednesday, May 23, Ms. Travelino will be among HCCC’s graduates, receiving an Associate degree in Early Childhood Education. This Fall, she will attend New Jersey City University to work towards her Bachelor’s degree — and eventually her Master’s degree — in Psychology and Early Childhood Education.

In 1988, Naomi Ferreira, her husband and four children emigrated from Guyana to the United States. Over the course of the next two decades, she visited Hudson County Community College several times, but postponed her dream of pursuing a college education because she felt her children’s education was more important. In 2009, Ms. Ferreira registered for and began her studies at Hudson County Community College.

“Working full time and attending school was not easy, but I loved every minute of it. I never missed a class and was never late for one,” said Ms. Ferreira who is 57 years of age and who will also be awarded her Associate degree in Early Childhood Education on May 23rd. It is “… a dream come true for me,” she stated.

Jack Pettigrew is a full-time firefighter with Kearny Engine #1. Born in Jersey City and raised in Harrison, Mr. Pettigrew retired from the U.S. Navy with the highest rank — Chief — in April 2011. He had completed three tours-of-duty (52 months) in the Middle East after 9/11.

Chief Pettigrew, who is now 58 years of age and holds a degree from the University of Rhode Island, had watched HCCC Culinary Arts Institute Executive Director/Chef Paul Dillon’s cooking program on cable TV and determined that he wanted to pursue a full-time culinary career. And so, in Spring of 2010, he began his studies at the College’s acclaimed Culinary Arts Institute under the GI Bill.

The Chief got back on his “sea legs” to complete an externship as the ship’s cook on a 100-foot schooner for Maine Windjammer Cruises. He credits his fellow firefighters at Engine #1 for helping cover for him so he could meet the 600 hours required for the externship.

In late June, after graduating with his Associate degree in Culinary Arts, Chief Pettigrew plans to retire from the firehouse and work for Maine Windjammer over the summer. He then intends to either pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts at Fairleigh Dickinson University or a full-time culinary career.

Irvington resident Linda Bell also plants to pursue a career in the culinary world. Born in Newark and the eldest of six children, Ms. Bell will graduate magna cum laude from the College with her Associate degree in Culinary Arts. She is the first college graduate in her family.

While pursuing her degree at Hudson County Community College, Ms. Bell, who is 59 years of age, was on the Dean’s List every semester, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Chi Alpha Epsilon honor societies. She was also a member of the Culinary Arts Club.

Ms. Bell has been accepted to Fairleigh Dickinson University, Montclair State University and Johnson & Wales.

Among the 1,060 graduates at the College’s Commencement Exercises will be two gentlemen who are more familiar to HCCC students as members of the Cambridge Security force at the College — Evidence Thomas and Partick Mbong.

A native of Nigeria, Mr. Thomas emigrated to the United States in 2007 and has since become a citizen of this country. Mr. Thomas relates that even as a child he was passionate about wanting to become an accounts receivable professional.

Now 35 years of age, Mr. Thomas opted to work full-time as a security officer at the College while pursuing his studies on a full-time basis. “I didn’t enjoy my free time like most of my friends,” he said. But keeping focused on his studies and working hard certainly paid off and won him a place on the Dean’s List.

“Attending Hudson County Community College allowed me to seek great opportunities” … and “to support myself and live a better life,” Thomas said. After graduation, he plans to attain a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from New Jersey City University.

Patrick Mbong is 44 years of age. A native of Cameroon who is married and the father of one child, Mr. Mbong stated: “For as long as I can remember, I have known what I wanted to do with my life, and criminal justice has always been a passion of mine. Dedicating my life to improving the lives of others is very appealing to me.”

Mr. Mbong said that determining to pursue an Associate’s degree was one of the most difficult decisions he ever made, because he knew it would be rigorous, financially costly and tough on his wife and son. Mbong earned a scholarship from the Hudson County Community College Foundation for six semesters, and thus, the financial burden was eased and he was able to focus on learning.

On May 23rd, Mr. Mbong will graduate with honors, having maintained a 3.76 grade point average. He will continue his studies towards a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at New Jersey City University.

“I believe studying here (HCCC) is something that every college student should do to help expand their horizons, and to appreciate everything the world has to offer,” Patrick Mbong stated. “Knowing Hudson County Community College was the right and best place gave me strength … I will never forget it and the people who helped me become the strong and independent man that I will be upon graduation day.”