Alumni Newsletter

Keeping our Alumni informed of Atlantic Cape activities

Graduation Stories

Mother, Son International Students Graduate ACCC

Mother and son Evalis and Erick Rodriguez never expected they would earn degrees from an American college, and the Venezuelan natives certainly never thought they would graduate together.

But Evalis, 47, and Erick, 21, both of Galloway, received their associate degrees from ACCC at the college’s commencement ceremony May 25.


Mother and son Evalis and Erick Rodriguez receive their diplomas at ACCC's graduation ceremony.

Evalis has a degree in architecture from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, however after moving to New Jersey in 2001, she immediately enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at ACCC. She completed all levels of ESL courses and motivated Erick to join her to complete his ESL studies and the first stage of his college education.

Evalis received an Associate in Science degree in Social Work, and Erick received an Associate in Science in Computer Information Systems. Evalis will return to ACCC this fall for a few additional classes, while Erick has already transferred to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

During four years of classes at ACCC, the mother and son have only shared one class-geography. Both received an A, but Erick is quick to point out he bested his mother by a few points. The greatest part about sharing a class—only having to buy one book, both said.

Mother, Son to Receive ACCC Diplomas Together

After putting her education on hold repeatedly to take care of her family, Charita McClain, Blackwood, graduated from ACCC with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Office Systems Technology May 25. What made her walk to the stage to receive her diploma even sweeter was sharing the moment with her son, Anthony Booker, who earned his Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts.

McClain, an administrative secretary in ACCC’s human resources department, took her first course in 1991. Her son, family illness and other hurdles prevented school from becoming a priority.

“It wasn’t until Anthony graduated from high school and became a student here at ACCC in 2003 that I began buckling down and taking classes two and three at a time,” McClain said. “I started pacing myself. I always wanted to graduate, and I thought that my son would graduate before I did at the rate I was going.”

That meant taking classes during winter and summer sessions in addition to the spring and fall semesters, taking classes in person and online, and even keeping up with school one semester while spending weeks at home recuperating from surgery.

“When he walked, I wanted to walk. I knew if I worked really hard, I could do it,” McClain said.

At times, McClain and Booker would turn their house into their version of a college dorm, with books everywhere, the computer on all hours of the night while one or both of them was trying to finish a report or taking classes online.

McClain said the years of work were worth it. Booker will continue his education at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Mays Landing Resident Sidelined by Car Accident Finishes Degree

Dawn Murphy left high school at age 16, and nearly a decade passed before she decided it was time to return to the classroom.

A Mays Landing resident, Murphy stopped by ACCC’s main campus one day to see what her options were. Three weeks later she passed the GED exam, and before she knew it she was a college student.

Murphy enrolled at ACCC in the spring of 2003. She was more than halfway done with her degree in general studies when a car accident in November 2004 derailed her plans.

“It was right before finals and I had a serious concussion. I felt so overwhelmed. I couldn’t remember things, I forgot where I lived,” Murphy said. “I was encouraged by the doctors to withdraw from my classes, but I’m stubborn and took my finals.”

Murphy did sit out the spring semester and returned to ACCC last fall. She has since completed the requirements for a degree in general studies, even while working full-time as a preschool teacher. Murphy will transfer to the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey this fall, and she plans to pursue a degree in education. Ultimately, Murphy wants to work with children with special needs.

Now 28, Murphy said she is 100 percent recovered from her traumatic accident and is ready to begin the next phase of her education.

Cape May County Resident Ready for Nursing Career

Charles R. Lukens was working for a general construction firm and a real estate agent when he decided he wanted a career that would keep him fulfilled until retirement.

Lukens heard there was a nursing shortage and enrolled in ACCC’s nursing program in 2004. On May 25, he received his Associate in Applied Science degree in Nursing after two years of attending classes full-time while working.

At age 62, the Sea Isle City resident also has the distinction of being this year’s oldest graduate.

Lukens said his experience at ACCC has been very rewarding and he is currently looking for a position in his new field.