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More Than 600 Graduates Take Part in Mercer County Community College Commencement Ceremony at CURE Arena

Event livestreamed around the world and watched in 33 countries 


Trenton, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the class of 2023 on Thursday, May 18, marking the college's first-ever commencement ceremony at CURE Arena in Trenton. 

A total of 632 graduates were awarded 656 degrees and certificates surrounded by hundreds of family members, friends, Mercer County community leaders, college faculty, staff and distinguished guests. The event, also livestreamed internationally with over a thousand views from countries as far away as Bolivia, Ecuador, Italy, Netherlands and Egypt, solidified Mercer County Community College’s reputation of servicing a richly diverse student community.

The event began with a beautiful a cappella version of the national anthem sung by Mercer County Community College Green & Gold quartet, and the entire ceremony was covered by a sign language interpreter. 

Dr. Deborah E. Preston, president of Mercer County Community College, set a celebratory tone during her introductory remarks to the class of 2023.

“This day is truly a first for many of you … the entire Mercer community is happy for all of you and proud of your achievements,” Preston said.

Kristin Appelget, chair of the Mercer County Community College Board of Trustees, also provided encouragement to the arena of students.  

“Know that your hard work and dedication to your studies at Mercer County Community College has prepared you well for your journey forward,” Appelget said. “Hold your heads high as you move on to the new and exciting challenges that await you.”

County Executive Brian M. Hughes was also present at the ceremony where he announced on stage that it would be his last.  

“I have attended this commencement event for 20 years,” said Hughes. “...I am proud of the work I have done with Mercer County Community College.” Hughes then turned his attention to the MCCC graduates, faculty and staff saying, “...And I am proud of the work all of you have done at MCCC.”

Keynote speaker, Bradley Butler, a 2009 graduate of MCCC who also has a Master’s in Counseling from Pillar College, shared his very emotional story about overcoming hardship. Having grown up in Jersey City and misplaced for ten years in special education classes, he described his childhood growing up in a rough neighborhood with gangs, drugs, poverty and with his parents who he politely described as “professional urban pharmacists.”

During his speech he acknowledged the presence of his father, who has since worked hard to change his ways.

“Today is a special day,” Butler said. “My father is here. It is the first time that my father has ever made it to one of my speaking engagements,” he said.  

Butler specifically acknowledged the professors at Mercer County Community College who believed in him and helped him change his life, and he left the class of 2023 with hope for the future.

“I need you to wholeheartedly believe that today is not the last celebration that you have. There are more to come,” Butler said.

MCCC's 2023 commencement speaker was Christian Joaquin Perez, a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society who earned an A.A.S. in Game Programming in 2022, was graduating with his second degree -- an Associate in Science in Communications/New Media. Perez was introduced by Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Bette Simmons as “not just a strong student ... but also as an active student leader.”

Perez gave a moving speech about his personal journey of overcoming failure, and praised Mercer County Community College for helping him through tough times.

Perez said, “Mercer County Community College was my opportunity for reinvention – to pursue my interests on affordable terms. Just one semester taught me that I was far from the only person who needed that opportunity.”  

Other highlights of the commencement included recognition of the  honors students and the announcement of the 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award winner, Professor of Biology Ellen Genovesi which was presented by MCCC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Schreyer.

Genovesi offered congratulatory and heartfelt remarks to the  graduating class.

“Your commitment, resilience and unwavering determination have brought you to this milestone,” Genovesi said. “When I look out into this audience what inspires me most is your stories – stories of nontraditional students who left behind stable jobs to pursue a new career path.” Genovesi continued her address to all of the graduates. “Your bravery and willingness to step outside your comfort zone is commendable, and it serves as a reminder to us all that it is never to late to follow our dreams” Genovesi said. “..,Your stories of resilience, determination, serve as a constant reminder that no dream is too big and no obstacle insurmountable. Remember that your education is not simply a means to an end, but rather a lifelong journey of discovery and growth.”

Many of this year’s graduates will begin their careers and many will transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

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About Mercer County Community College
Established in 1966, Mercer County Community College is a publicly supported comprehensive institution that provides opportunities for higher education through an open-door admission policy. The scenic 292-acre West Windsor Campus was opened in 1972 to serve the needs of Mercer County residents. MCCC’s James Kerney Campus, located in downtown Trenton, serves as an educational and cultural hub for city residents that meets the changing needs of thousands of students and community members seeking educational fulfillment and personal and career growth. President: Deborah E. Preston, Ph.D.;

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On Thursday, May18,  Mercer County Community College celebrated the class of 2023 at a commencement ceremony at CURE Arena in Trenton. MCCC President Deborah E. Preston presided over the event where a total of 632 graduates were awarded 656 degrees and certificates. Hundreds of family members, friends, Mercer County community leaders, college faculty, staff and distinguished guests attended the event which was also livestreamed internationally. (Shown above: President of Mercer County Community College, Deborah E. Preston.)  Photo credit: Marcy Roberts/MCCC



MCCC's Green & Gold Quartet performed the national anthem at the May 18 commencement ceremony. From left: Assistant to the Dean of Business, Technology and Professional Services Elizabeth Rzasa with graduates Ave Corbitt, Maho Kurisa, Camryn LeCain. Corbitt will attend Rowan University and Kurisu will go on to Montclair to study voice; LeCain has secured a position in MCCC's media department.   Photo credit: Marcy Roberts/MCCC  



Daniel Castellanos came from Hightstown High School to attend Mercer County Community College where he graduated on May 18, 2023 with an associate degree in Graphic Design. Castellanos will take a brief respite before attending The College of New Jersey. Castellano is shown here with his mother, Anna, originally from Ecuador who beamed, I am proud of my son who dedicated himself every day to his studies. ”   Photo credit: Marcy Roberts/MCCC  



2023 graduate Mariana Ixcaticoy-DeLeon received her associate degree in Communications. Her next stop is The College of New Jersey. Ixcaticoy DeLeon's family is originally from Guatamala but now lives in Trenton. Ixcaticoy-DeLeon said that she loved her professors at MCCC. Photo credit: Marcy Roberts/MCCC  



Emily Greschak (left) graduated with an associate degree in Liberal Arts and plans to attend Rowan Univerisity and Rylee Briggs graduated with an associate degree in Education and will be attending The College of New Jersey in the fall.   Photo credit: Marcy Roberts/MCCC