Provided/Atlantic Cape scholarship recipient Ibrihim Goodman with his mother and sister.

MAYS LANDING – Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation awarded  351 individual scholarships worth $366,504 to 211 students during its 57th annual Recognition Ceremony held May 13 in the Jonathan Pitney Hall Gymnasium on the Mays Landing campus. The ceremony also acknowledged the unwavering generosity and continued support of the college’s sponsors and donors who make the scholarships possible.

“We are so happy to be here tonight to celebrate the achievement of our students as well as to recognize and thank our donors for supporting and creating opportunities for our deserving students,” said Atlantic Cape President Barbara Gaba. “The Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation is dedicated to serving the mission of Atlantic Cape by providing financial support to the college and its students. Foundation funds provide college scholarships to students in need, capital for campus improvements, and cultural education and community outreach programs.”

Atlantic Cape Foundation President James Rutala.

“This is the event of the year for us,” Atlantic Cape Foundation President James Rutala said. “We spend the year raising funds, and coming up with ideas to really help the community and the foundation to create scholarships. Tonight is the night to give back. We have more than 30 board members and they all build on their relationships in the community to raise funds and to support the college.”

The positive impact that the power of giving makes was emphasized throughout the evening. Three students, who were recipients of various scholarships this year, spoke of the life-altering experiences that these financial awards did for their education and their lives.

“I am grateful for my scholarships that paid four out of my 10 college courses. Gaining college experience earlier has put me in situations where I had to challenge my comfort level. It has taught me about responsibility and how to be independent,” said Giavana Torres, a recent graduate of Cedar Creek High School who was one of 48 students this year to participate in the Early College Program and graduate from both high school and college simultaneously.

“In order to afford college, I was faced with the challenge of balancing two jobs at the age of 18 while pursuing my education. This was a formidable challenge as it impacted my grades and self-doubt often crept in,” said Jessica White, a Health Science and Radiologic Technology major. “I had to withdraw from five classes over four years because I couldn’t balance work and college properly. Thanks to the support from the Robert Hunter Doherty Memorial scholarship, the community college opportunity grant and various financial aid opportunities I was able to focus more on my classwork.”

Business Administration major Ibrihim Goodman motivated the students in the room by imploring them to challenge themselves, to embrace adversity, to tackle all that life puts before them and to believe in their talents.

“Our society is thirsty for problem solvers. The entire globe demands problem solvers and solutions to its problems. So, recognize that we were chosen to receive these scholarships because you earned them. Donors wish to see you succeed,” said Goodman, who will be attending Rutgers University New Brunswick this fall as a Marketing major. “Do not limit yourself, do not place a cap on your abilities and recognize the potential that lies within yourself.”

Meanwhile, two members of the donor community spoke to the importance of giving back to the community and to the college. OceanFirst Bank Community Banking President Vincent D’Alessandro applauded the highly skilled quality of students that community colleges like Atlantic Cape produce year-in and year-out.

“To me, we are celebrating the value of a community college education here tonight. We (OceanFirst) have about 1,000 employees and our best employees are the ones that have taken the journey through the community college education process,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s a real tangible educational experience that creates balanced students, and graduates that come to us and work with us have a level of corporate readiness that you do not get from other places.”

With an average age nationwide of 28 years, the community college pipeline is producing well-rounded graduates who are becoming valuable employees, he said.

“Those students that have experience with community college education are well balanced. You are working, you are balancing home life, you are balancing your academics with professors who probably have other jobs working for companies, which makes what they are teaching the students invaluable for companies like ours,” D’Alessandro said.

Founder/Director of dLPLAN/Destination Philly AC Larry Huttinger spoke of the importance of earning a scholarship and taking advantage of the opportunities it provides.

“In high school, I didn’t get a scholarship that I applied for. I felt very deflated, but I was the recipient of another scholarship related to community service, which has always been a part of my life and my passion for many decades,” Huttinger said. “Getting the scholarship I didn’t expect to was the best gift because it transformed my life, gave me validation that I had done something that was recognized and that I could become someone in college.”

Huttinger also thanked the Atlantic Cape community and the college’s donors for helping his daughter overcome a difficult high school experience and to ultimately allow her to thrive.

“My only daughter was bullied in high school, and her mother and I convinced her to go to Atlantic Cape because we thought there was an opportunity here for her,” admitted Huttinger. “When she came here the school embraced her, they comforted her and they believed in her. She then graduated from Atlantic Cape and then went to earn a bachelor’s degree. So, I am grateful for that as a parent.”

Atlantic Cape scholarship reception.

The evening’s festivities were attended by 298 people, including 105 students, 93 guests, 52 scholarship donors, and 48 board members, college faculty and staff. The outpouring of giving from such donors has allowed the Atlantic Cape Foundation to support thousands of Atlantic and Cape May County students over the past 57 years and given them the financial means to pursue their academic dreams.

In Giving Year 2023, the foundation awarded 567 scholarships worth $591,117 to Atlantic Cape students. The foundation received $789,836 from 596 donors and sponsors. Meanwhile, $46,000 was raised in direct support for Atlantic Cape, $12,190 was raised for emergency funds and $9,290 for the Campus Food Pantry.

Since the foundation’s beginning in 1978, it has raised more than $7 million for student scholarships, academic programs and enhancing the campus environment.

The foundation’s mission is to provide funding and support to the college, its students and educational endeavors through special event fundraising and community philanthropy.

Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.