Honors Students Stacking Awards

PARAMUS, N.J. – Five current and alumni members of Bergen Community College’s Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa - the honor society of two-year colleges - have secured awards during the spring semester. From scholarships to leadership positions and even a publishing credit, each of the students has made a lasting impression on the College, according to PTK and Honors Coordinator Anna Gergen.

“These students exemplify the hallmarks of PTK: leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service,” she said. “Each individual has contributed so much time, effort, and passion to our chapter, we cannot imagine more deserving honorees.”

· Leading the awardees, students Mana Mehdizadeh, of Nutley, and alumnus Petar Petroski (’22), of Garfield, have received recognition as 2023 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholars. They will each receive a $1,500 scholarship and placement on the All-USA Academic Team. More than 2,400 prospective students applied for the recognition.

A general studies major aspiring to study government and politics at a four-year institution and attend law school, Mehdizadeh serves as vice president of service for PTK, a tutor/academic coach at the Cerullo Learning Assistance Center and as an intern for New Jersey State Representative Shama Haider (D-37).

“It is an immense honor to receive this award and be recognized for my academic accomplishments combined with my commitment to leadership and service,” she said.

Her fellow awardee Petroski graduated from Bergen with honors - and a 4.0 GPA. He currently attends the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he plans to earn a bachelor of science and become an information systems administrator.

“Being selected as a Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar is a great honor and a recognition of my hard work and dedication to academic excellence,” he said.

· Meanwhile, student Marie Eng, of Fair Lawn, will receive a $1,250 PTK scholarship as a 2023 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar. She represents the only student from New Jersey to earn the award; more than 2,000 applied. The Association of Community College Trustees will honor her in October at the group’s Leadership Congress in Las Vegas.

“I am truly honored to have been selected as the 2023 New Century Workforce Pathway Scholar for Phi Theta Kappa,” she said.

Pursuing two degrees (dental hygiene and veterinary technology) at Bergen, Eng hopes to work in both fields. In fact, she also holds a bachelor of music in music industry with a major in voice from Syracuse University (‘08). She has performed with the Oratorio Society of New York at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

· Also making headlines, student Mateo Armas, of Garfield, will serve as president in the PTK North District for the 2023-24 academic year. In the role, he will represent Bergen at community colleges on the regional level, which spans the mid-Atlantic states. As an elected regional officer, Armas will lead regional meetings and help guide PTK chapters through leadership events. He marks the first Bergen student to hold the position.

“Phi Theta Kappa has opened a clearer path for me for my own future,” he said. “I am truly grateful to be a member of it.”

A computer science major and NJ STARS student, Armas contributed to the “Bergen Routes” project, which mapped internal hallways and rooms on the College’s campus. After graduating, he plans to continue his education in the field of computer science or cybersecurity.

· Finally, alumnus Jae Kwon’s literary work, “Just a Sandwich,” was selected for publication in the 28th edition of PTK’s Nota Bene anthology literary journal. With more than 800 works submitted, PTK officials only selected 24 for publication.

“I am super excited to have my work published, as I believe this is the first time since high school that I've been selected like this,” he said. “I am also excited to be writing more and more thanks to the encouragement I am getting from this honor.”

Kwon, of Glen Rock, earned a spot in the journal for his one-act play, which portrays a mixed-race couple addressing power dynamics. With an academic interest in exploring the connections between Korean and American popular literature and cultures, Kwon seeks to examine the individual along with cultural and social norms.

Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Kwon grew up in New Jersey with a dream of becoming a writer or an author. After working in marketing, tutoring and as a restaurant server, he now works as the curriculum director/developer and supervisor in charge of teacher training at Step By Step English School, a nonprofit offering free or low cost ESL programs in six countries. He also attends Columbia University.

Phi Theta Kappa recognizes the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helps them grow as scholars and leaders. More than 3.8 million students have become members across nearly 1,300 chapters in 11 countries. Learn more at ptk.org.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 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.

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