If experience is knowledge, and knowledge is power, then Naugatuck Valley Community College has the privilege of educating some of the most powerful men in the Greater Waterbury region. And on Wed., April 30, members of the College community came together to honor them.
Inspired by President Daisy Cocco De Filippis', Ph.D., annual High Tea Ceremony, which celebrates women who have overcome adversity to succeed at NVCC, the NVCC Male Encouragement Network, M.E.N., decided this year it was time to finally recognize the spirit of triumph, resiliency and commitment among our outstanding male students.
At a time when the Center for Community College Student Engagement reports that only 32 percent of white males, and a tragic 5 percent of black males and Latinos earn certificates or degrees within three years of entering community college, we couldn't agree more.
During the ceremony, nominating staff came up to introduce their students, who were chosen by a small committee of male mentors, and then handed the microphone over to the nominees. No matter who was talking, though, the message was the same. To these men, life, and as a byproduct success, has been an absolute reflection of a positive perspective.
For Jamil Perez, the two-term NVCC SGA Vice President and a winter 2014 graduation candidate, that perspective has been a choice, and one that he believes all people make, or don't make, in order to achieve a sense of control over one's circumstances.
"I wasn't always like this, actually," he explains, "it took some transformation over several years. I just decided to change my outlook on life."
Jamil looks forward to a future career in psychotherapy in which he can work with people to help them adjust their thinking in order to achieve better outcomes, something that Karen Blake, student activities director, quickly recognized in him.
"Jamil has always taken the time as the SGA Vice President to work with students and mentor them," she said. "I always see him having sidebars and really finding ways to empower different club leaders to take on more responsibility and stay engaged."
Whether he knew it or not, Max Arzu was having a similar impact on students through his role in the Waterbury AmeriCorps program. According to the program's director John Corcoran, Max is a natural leader whose reputation already precedes him with students and even throughout the local community.
"When students come to me and they aren't sure if they want to sign up for the program, I send them to Max. He doesn't know it, but I do," he explained. "Max has developed a reputation for himself with our community partners. He has been hired by the Boys and Girls Club and Brass City Harvest to continue the good work he started in our program and just the other day, I stopped by the Saint Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen and they couldn't say enough good things about him."
Halfway through his second year in the AmeriCorps program, which requires 450 hours of community service annually, Max has already given more than 1,000. And that's just the documented time. We have good reason to believe that he's doing a great deal more.
"I've been living in Waterbury for 16, 17 years and I want to see change where I live," Max explained, citing a recent crime report for Waterbury that he wants to see improved. "The statistics were really unsatisfying to me. So me doing this service work in Waterbury, it's a positive thing for me... I wasn't doing it for an award, I was just doing what I thought was right."
To learn more about the M.E.N. program or to become a M.E.N.tor, contact Sam Johnson in the Center for Academic Planning and Student Success.
All 2013-14 Recipients
Joseph K. Zaczek