Author: Larry Hlavenka

Once Homeless, Student Becomes Gilman Scholar

Orlando Fonte

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College student Orlando Fonte, of Weehawken, has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in Seville, Spain, during the fall 2017 academic term. His departure for Spain, though may represent the easiest part of his journey. As recent as this spring, Fonte was one of the 14 percent of U.S. community college students who identify as homeless, according to a recent study published by researchers at the University of Wisconsin.

Despite facing the daily decision to either purchase food or shelter, Fonte continued to take classes at the College, work and volunteer at a local nonprofit, helping victims of sexual abuse. Through the establishment of a GoFundMe page and with the help of Bergen professor Shari Franschman, faculty and staff, Fonte raised enough money to move into an apartment this summer.

Fonte now represents one of approximately 1,000 undergraduate students from 386 colleges and universities across the U.S. selected to receive the award, according to the U.S. Department of State. He is the 12th Bergen student to receive the award since 2011.

Seeking a greater understanding of his own Hispanic roots, Fonte, a social work major, has departed for Spain to take part in the study abroad program at the International College of Seville.

“I’ve lived in the U.S. my whole life,” he said. “Studying abroad in Spain gives me the opportunity to experience the culture, according to their customs, which will allow me to further explore myself.”

Fonte also hopes the immersive setting helps clear his mind of challenges and provide inspiration for other struggling students.

“Rely on yourself and trust that you have the perseverance and determination to make it through,” he said.

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program, administered by the Institute of International Education, aims to diversify students who study and intern abroad as well as the countries and regions they visit.

Bergen student Caroline Moscatello, of Glen Rock, will also study abroad in Spain during the fall semester through the College’s study abroad program.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Concert Explores the World from Bergen’s Ciccone

PARAMUS, N.J. – Taking musical cues from around the globe, Bergen Community College’s music department will present “A Musical Geography: Around the World in 80 Minutes” in the Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre (400 Paramus Road) Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Conceived and directed by Bergen performing arts professor Andrew Krikun, Ph.D., the concert will feature a tour of musical traditions inspired by five continents including:

  • Bergen’s Spoken Word Chorus presenting Ernst Toch’s “A Geographical Fugue,” originally performed in 1930, conducted by Bergen music professor Gordon Scott;
  • European and Middle Eastern selections by Bergen performing arts faculty John LaBarbera on a variety of stringed instruments and violinist Nadya Kourani;
  • Indiana’s Wabash College music professor and Bergen’s distinguished artist James Makubuya, Ph.D., accompanying himself on traditional Ugandan instruments;
  • Colombian musician and Bergen alumna Enki Bello on the electric harp;
  • Southwestern-inspired music by Bergen’s Krikun accompanied by music professor Sue Williams and Amsterdam-based tenor saxophonist Jeff Hollie.

Ticket prices for the general public are $15, with discounts offered to senior citizens, Bergen faculty and students. Guests can purchase tickets online at tickets.bergen.edu or by visiting room A-130 in the Pitkin Education Center. All proceeds benefit the College’s music program. For more information, please call (201) 447-7428.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Be a Hero for Veterans at Bergen 5K

In the inaugural Hero 5K, more than 100 runners and family members supported U.S. military veterans.

PARAMUS, N.J. – In an event tailor-made for the Flash, Bergen Community College’s second annual “Hero 5K Run” encourages participants to dress as their favorite superhero as they raise funds for United States military veterans.

Organized by the College’s Department of Wellness and Exercise Science, the charity race will take place Sunday, Oct. 22 at 9 a.m. at the College’s main campus at 400 Paramus Road. Registration for the 5K run/walk or wheelchair 5K is $25 per entrant; a 1K family fun run, which will begin at 10 a.m., is $10 per entrant. The first 250 registrants will receive a commemorative race t-shirt; all children will receive a superhero cape. Awards will recognize the top three overall, male and female race finishers. Proceeds benefit the institution’s emergency and scholarship funds for veterans.

For more information, or to register, visit facebook.com/bccherorun.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Another Summer of STEM for Bergen Students

Bergen Community College students prepping a high-altitude balloon for flight before the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

PARAMUS, N.J. – This summer, Bergen Community College STEM students launched a high-altitude balloon to capture images of the solar eclipse, recorded geologic activity around the globe with a homemade seismometer and placed first in a national hackathon competition. Just an ordinary summer.

The balloon project – a follow-up to last summer’s launch that delivered images of the Earth at 96,000 feet – featured a team of two dozen students, faculty and staff collaborating to secure atmospheric photos and video of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse that captivated the United States.

Using plans and research conducted by the 2016 balloon team, this year’s group built their payload box from scratch, designing parts through CAD software, then exporting their designs to a 3-D printer. The team then outfitted the box with a microprocessor, GPS equipment and six cameras to record the event and prepared to attach the payload to a 3,000-gram balloon that would soar into the atmosphere.

The team worked with Professor Paul Griffo, Ph.D., to use location prediction software to determine the optimal spot for the launch based on their balloon and payload. Located within the so-called “path of totality” – complete coverage of the sun during the eclipse – Jefferson City, Missouri, consistently topped the charts. The professor also helped secure a spot to launch, making contact with Jefferson City representatives of international industrial technology leader ABB, which not only provided the team with logistics support, but tents, meals and water.

After traveling to Jefferson City, the team launched the balloon from a field on ABB’s campus, watching the eclipse from the ground as their payload soared into the atmosphere. Ultimately, a malfunction – most likely heat exposure – knocked out the payload’s microprocessor and five of the six cameras, limiting the data and images returned once the balloon popped and crashed back to land. The team will now try to reconstruct the event to pinpoint the cause of the breakdown.

Project leader Grecia Manrique, of Ridgefield, had no regrets.

“For those two and a half minutes, as our balloon was up in the air and we were staring at the solar eclipse, we were just quiet, observing such a natural event,” she said.  “Everyone forgot about all of their problems. For one moment, everyone just watched this beautiful event.”

Professor Griffo agreed that the event, and the students’ work, overshadowed any hiccups.

“It’s a privilege to work with students who are so focused and so dedicated to getting a job done and learning more,” he said. “It’s exciting to watch.”

Meanwhile, as the eclipse dazzled the skies, activity underground also piqued the interest of Bergen STEM students. This summer, a seismometer constructed by Bergen graduates Karina Palaric and Tamar Tokman, continued to record earthquakes that rocked areas as distant as Mexico. Palaric, of Garfield, who now attends NJIT, and Tokman, of Emerson, who now attends Fairleigh Dickinson University, worked on the project for approximately one year, using plans and blueprints for AS-1 vertical seismometers found online along with Professor Fred Marton, Ph.D. Tokman said the project helped elevate her confidence.

“It’s good that you’re into the sciences, but it also makes you feel good about yourself,” she said.

Finally, student Jonny Lazarte won first prize in the “Master the Mainframe Hackathon” at the August SHARE conference in Providence, Rhode Island. SHARE, an independent volunteer-run information technology association, sponsored the event as part of their annual “career day” activities. During the hackathon, students competed with each other while working with IBM and Rocket Software experts to learn new skills. Lazarte, of Garfield, also served as a project leader on the eclipse balloon team.

Focus on STEM continues at Bergen as the federal government estimates U.S. employers will add nine million STEM jobs by 2022.  Projects at Bergen have included converting a softball field house into a workshop and conducting experimental testing with two wind turbines and a solar panel system. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration also granted Bergen clearance to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) on campus, making it one of only three community colleges to receive such an exemption from the federal government.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Student Selected for Honor Society Board

Amanda Karpinski

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College student Amanda Karpinski, the current international president of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society of two-year colleges, has earned a second leadership position with the organization – she will serve as the student representative on the group’s board of directors. Elected as president by her peers at the organization’s national conference in April, Karpinski represents both the first Bergen student to serve as international president and on the board of directors.

“I had the privilege of having Amanda in one of my classes,” Interim President Michael D. Redmond, Ph.D., said. “As a student, she possesses keen insight and makes astute observations. I have no doubt she will now apply those same abilities and unique talents as a leading advocate for community college students throughout the country.”

Karpinski, of Carlstadt, served as Bergen’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter president last semester, leading the group to 16 awards – including regional and international distinguished chapter honors for the fourth year in a row. With her election as international president, she has deployed many of the successful strategies for chapters across the globe that gained traction at Bergen. Although eligible to graduate from the College at any time, she remains enrolled, taking additional classes to prepare for Georgetown University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s in English and law school.

Phi Theta Kappa’s seven-representative board of directors governs all policies of the honor society and ensures that the organization’s mission to nurture academic excellence among community college students is reflected in all its programs and endeavors.

Approximately 91 percent of Phi Theta Kappa members earn an associate degree or transfer to a four-year institution, compared to the national rate of 38 percent. More than 1,300 chapters exist throughout the world.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Festival Brings All that Jazz to Bergen

Grammy nominee Curtis Lundy’s nonprofit and Bergen Community College will host “An Autumn Afternoon of Jazz” Sept. 30.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Award-winning artists Curtis Lundy, Bobby Watson and Sherry Winston will headline “An Autumn Afternoon of Jazz” at Bergen Community College. Hosted by the nonprofit Bergen County Jazz Society and the College, the event will take place Saturday, Sept. 30 from 3 to 11 p.m. in the Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre at the institution’s main campus, 400 Paramus Road.

Tickets are $65, $50 for seniors as well as College faculty and staff and $15 for students. A portion of proceeds will support books for students, transportation scholarships and the Bergen County Jazz Performers mentoring program. To purchase tickets, visit https://autumnafternoonofjazz.eventbrite.com, call (201) 301-1695 or email [email protected].

In addition to the featured artists, Freddy Rodriguez and the Urban Charanga Project – a 14-piece Latin jazz band – Gary Samuels and the Peter Valera Jump Blues Band, Ms. Irene Renee, and Sounds of Manilla will all perform.

Englewood Hospital, WBGO, Visions Federal Credit Union and the Bullion Foundation will sponsor the event.

Formed by Grammy nominee Curtis Lundy and the College’s director of multicultural affairs Ronald E. McKnight, the nonprofit Bergen County Jazz Society celebrates the musical talent of jazz artists throughout Bergen County and the world. The organization aims to share the beauty and richness of jazz with audiences and in the classroom with students.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Still Time to Register for Fall Semester at Bergen

Many fall II classes will take place at Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College will begin its fall II schedule Friday, Sept. 22, providing students with a second opportunity to enroll in classes this fall. The fall I schedule began Sept. 1. Offerings such as English Composition I, Introduction to Criminal Justice and U.S. history will take place across Bergen’s three locations and online as part of the newest slate of courses.

To register for classes, visit bergen.edu or any of the College’s three sites – 400 Paramus Road, Paramus (main campus), 1280 Wall Street West, Lyndhurst (Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands) and 355 Main Street, Hackensack (Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center).

Bergen has ranked No. 1 in New Jersey for associate degree graduates three years in a row. The institution’s resources include the 65,000 square-foot Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center and the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center, twice recognized as the top tutoring center in the nation. Bergen also features a comprehensive science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum recently supported by a $5.3 million federal grant. With average annual earnings of $65,600, Bergen alumni rank No. 11 in the U.S. for mid-career salaries, according to PayScale, the online compensation database.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Bergen Begins 50th Year

Students returned to Bergen Community College’s main campus in Paramus Sept. 1.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2017-18 academic year, commemorating the 1967 hiring of the institution’s first president, Sidney Silverman, Ph.D., and the approval of the master plan that developed the College’s main campus at 400 Paramus Road. Bergen’s first 1,454 students arrived the following year in Sept. 1968; the newest students arrived Sept. 1.

“During this anniversary, we will look first to our past in order to celebrate our place and influence in the lives of our students, but we will also look to the future,” Interim President Michael D. Redmond, Ph.D., said. “This celebration encourages us to imagine what we can still become.”

Since its inception, Bergen has grown into the state’s largest community college with approximately 15,000 students taking classes this semester. Ranked No. 1 in the state for associate degree graduates, alumni have transferred to every Ivy League institution.

Expanding beyond its original footprint in Paramus, the College now features campus locations in Lyndhurst (Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands) and Hackensack (the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center). Online classes provide greater flexibility, while dual enrollment programs at area high schools allow students to get a jumpstart on earning a college degree.

Faculty, which include a former U.S. Professor of the Year, lead degree, certificate and continuing education programs in areas such as criminal justice, health professions and business.

Resources include the $26 million Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center, which opened in 2016 as the College’s project as part of the state’s Building Our Future Bond Act approved by voters, and the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center – twice named as the best tutoring facility in the U.S.

A committee led by honorary co-chairs Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III, Bergen County Freeholder Chair Tracy Silna Zur and Professor Emeritus Virginia Laughlin will direct the institution’s efforts related to celebrating the anniversary.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017-18, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Grad, Veteran Joins Board as Alumni Rep.

Peter Zalakostas

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College class of 2016 graduate Peter Zalakostas began his one-year term on the institution’s board of trustees July 11, taking the oath of office at the governing body’s regular meeting. The position, elected by current students, carries full voting rights on the board.

Zalakostas, of Fair Lawn, first enrolled at Bergen in 2014 after serving nearly four years in the U.S. Army. His two tours of duty in Afghanistan piqued an interest in international relations and law – subjects he now studies as a history major at Columbia University. He plans to pursue a J.D. under the Post-9/11 GI Bill after his graduation.

While enrolled at Bergen, Zalakostas took active roles in campus organizations such as the student government association and Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. He also joined student-led efforts to combat international human trafficking. Zalakostas completed his A.S. from Bergen in less than two years.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #

Summer Camp Students Really Cook

From left: Chris Nicolelis, Mira Fish, Tomer Zilkha, Sophia Lukac and Ronda Drakeford.

PARAMUS, N.J. – This summer, eight Bergen County high school students proved they can take the heat – in the kitchen.

As part of Bergen Community College’s “Kids and Teens” summer program, which offers enrichment courses through the institution’s Division of Continuing Education, Corporate and Public Sector Training, eight teenagers explored the culinary craft during “HACKed” (Hungry Aspiring Chefs in the Kitchen), a two-week course.

The program culminated with a July 28 reality-show-style cooking competition where teams of students presented appetizers, entrees and desserts to a panel of judges, who provided feedback and scored entries. By the slimmest of margins (a fraction of a point), the judges – Bergen hotel/restaurant/hospitality program faculty Ronda Drakeford, Chris Nicolelis and Tomer Zilkha – awarded Mira Fish, of Glen Rock, and Sophia Lukac, of Oradell, first prize. The pair not only showed their chops as chefs – painstakingly preparing a peach-mango sorbet without the benefit of an ice cream maker – but as teammates: a third member could not participate in the competition due to vacation, leaving them down a set of hands.

Nonetheless, the dynamic duo persevered and took home the grand prize, which included gift certificates to Pâtisserie Florentine, Biagio’s and the Bergen bookstore, among tools of the trade such as a Bergen-branded chef coat and measuring spoons.

Instructors Derrick Gagner and Joan Nicolai led the HACKed course.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls 15,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

# # #