Award-Winning Graduate Calls PCCC A Wise Choice
Edwin Lotero graduated from Passaic Valley High School in 2000, near the top of his class. A well-rounded, high achiever, he was a member of the honor society, president of the French club, and founder of the school’s Latin club.
Now, after two decades of personal growth and two years at PCCC, Edwin will graduate with his first college credential. He receives his associate’s degree in mathematics with high honors and the distinction of being named to the 2021 New Jersey All-State Academic Team.
He received the prestigious Coca-Cola Silver Scholarship from the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, as well as the Robert Sydney Needham Memorial Scholarship from PCCC. Additionally, Edwin was recognized with the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award by the Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) at PCCC.
“Coming to PCCC was a smart choice,” says the Paterson resident who was born and raised in the city and attended Don Bosco Technical High School before his family moved to Little Falls. “I’ve learned tremendously at PCCC, been recognized for achievement, and had opportunities I may not have had at a different college.”
Edwin was accepted to a prestigious New England university after high school, but that did not work out as expected. “I was a different person then,” explains Edwin. “That wasn’t the right time for me.” He attended the university on and off for six years, but due to personal struggles, including depression and addiction, did not progress.
Over the years, Edwin worked in various administrative jobs, but had not found clear direction in his life, until about five years ago. “I was in Florida and in recovery,” he says. Surrounded by a diverse, supportive community with an LBGTQ presence, Edwin healed. “I felt ready to achieve again and work toward my goals.”
He returned to Paterson when he heard about the New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) that enabled qualifying applicants to attend a community college tuition free. “I don’t know where I would be today if CCOG hadn’t been available,” says Edwin. “It was a godsend for me.”
On the advice of friends and family, Edwin enrolled at PCCC, thinking it would be a good stepping stone, but the College actually turned out to be more of a launchpad for him.
“PCCC exceeded my expectations of a community college,” says Edwin, who found the academics to be challenging and the professors dedicated and supportive. “I got so much more out of it than I would have thought.”
A math major who also enjoys the liberal arts, Edwin was impressed by the rigor of PCCC’s complex courses, such as Calculus III, and he thrived in his English composition critical thinking classes.
A member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society, Edwin at first felt shy about getting more involved with his fellow Kappans, but that changed when he decided to run for a PTK office and was elected Secretary.
“There was so much teamwork, and it was very rewarding to work alongside academically like-minded fellow students,” says Edwin. He has grown close to the other executive board members and is grateful to Professor Jennifer Gasparino, the PTK faculty advisor, for pushing him to get more involved. “She is a force,” he said, laughing.
The STEM department offered Edwin learning experiences with the NASA and internships provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). “I gained so much from STEM,” he said.
This summer he will begin an NSF virtual internship with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, creating programmatic statistical computer models for educational research.
While at PCCC, Edwin received the S-STEM Fellowship from Rutgers-Newark, which provided financial support that will continue when he transfers this Fall into a bachelor’s degree program there. With a career goal to become a data scientist, Edwin will major in Applied Mathematics and double minor in Computer Science / Data Science.
“PCCC was a wise choice for me,” says Edwin who is also grateful for the support he received during personal “rough spots,” especially from Lia Travers in the Office of Student Advocacy and Professor James Sanders in the Men of Color Initiative.
“The College provides flexibility for students who have diverse life situations and makes it possible for them to take advantage of excellent opportunities.”
Written by Linda Telesco