The NJ Community College Opportunity Grant is for NJ students, from all walks of life, pursuing their first degree.
Some are recent high school graduates and others are adult learners who’ve been working for decades. Some are on the path to citizenship and many were born and raised right here in New Jersey. The program has assisted students, not only in achieving their education goals, but also in getting more involved in their schools and communities, joining clubs and getting placed in internships relevant to their personal and professional identities, and finding careers that are right for them. Meet a few of the people who are on the pathway to success with support from the NJ CCOG!
Meet Christian Joaquín Perez
"I left Rutgers before finishing my degree but I was still searching for my passion and interested in getting an education. I qualified for CCOG without knowing anything about it--it really gave me the opportunity to explore my creativity and that’s when I found the Mercer County College gaming program. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be an overachiever to achieve your education goals and you don’t have to know exactly what you want to do yet. If you have a lot of interests, free college gives you the chance to pursue them."
Meet Suleiny Rodriguez
"Coming from the Dominican Republic, I understand how confusing it can be to find resources for schools, especially when you don’t always understand the language. But the CCOG process was so easy and I felt like they always had my back. I switched from business to culinary arts and I will be graduating with honors on top of having done two externships in restaurants as part of my program, all while still pursuing citizenship. I hope to learn about the different paths culinary arts can take me, including molecular gastronomy, and open my own restaurant."
Meet James Unterwald
"After decades of customer and food service jobs and not being able to work my way up at companies, I finally discovered the drone program at Warren County Community College. My wife graduated in 2018 and without her, I wouldn't have attempted it. A lack of self-esteem was a huge roadblock for me when it came to going back to school at 40, but the support from CCOG gave me the confidence I needed to become the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society president of my chapter and graduate Summa Cum Laude with a 3.95 GPA. Now, I’m the Lead Technician and Pilot Services Manager at an exciting startup."
Meet Lance Simon
"I enrolled in Essex College after getting my GED at 19. Watching my mom work at a bank growing up, I’d always been interested in finance but I was too busy doing work study, working part-time and trying to run my own photography business to focus on school. Not having to pay for school gave me the freedom to get my accounting degree with a 4.0 and have a real social life. Now, I plan to get my bachelors in accounting with a minor in social justice, and I hope to be able to teach financial literacy to low-income communities."
Meet Mayra Jackson
"I was laid off from my role as a bank manager during the pandemic and experienced significant anxiety about how to make ends meet as a single mother. When the staff from North Hudson reached out to me about CCOG, I decided to pursue a degree in software engineering. At the bank, I was always the first one in and the last one out--focusing on school while working to cover expenses would have been impossible. Thanks to CCOG, I will graduate in the Spring debt-free. I hope to use my degree to build a career developing apps that improve daily lives, especially after experiencing how quickly lives changed during this pandemic."