Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) recently honored 32 Norristown Area High School (NAHS) graduates who completed the three-year Johnson & Johnson Bridge to Employment (BTE) program – a collaboration between The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, the College and Norristown.
In past years, the BTE program hosts a special ceremony for the students, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, BTE took the celebration on the road.
MCCC’s Erica Spangler, who coordinates the BTE program, drove to the graduates’ homes to congratulate them, deliver college care packages and have a photographer take their photos with their families, following the mask and social distancing guidelines required by COVID-19. A group of program participants also came, including NAHS staff and Janssen employees, who mentored the students throughout the program.
“We’re very proud of the students, who have experienced tremendous growth academically, personally and professionally through this program,” said Spangler, noting this is the completion of the third BTE program partnership for MCCC. Prior partnerships included students from Wissahickon High School and Phoenixville Area High School.
The graduates are Rahmon Adeshokan, Jazmin Brito-Hernandez, Mayra Brown, Nathan Cochran, Aleshia Cofield, Basimah Curry, Lenny Duran-Huerta, Talia Ayleen Alvarado Gonzalez, Ciara Hale, Oumayma Hameddine, Bailee Hendricks, Jordan James, Bryan Jimenez, Brian Leftwich, Tyeirra Lynch, Giulietta Marinucci, Joselyn Moreno-Mendez, Rita Nayo, Luis Parker, Kerri Ann Porter, Miriam Ramirez, Dianna Reyes, Esther Rodriguez, Evelyn Romero, Raisa Sabiha, Lizbeth Sanchez-Andrade, Rashell Torres, Emilitza Trujillo, Erika Turner, Christian Venezia, Adrianna Wright and Dayanna Zeigler.
The positive impact of BTE is obvious with the group’s accomplishments. Four of the students were in the top 10 of Norristown’s graduating class. Twelve graduates earned college credits at MCCC through their experience in BTE, and several took dual enrollment classes beyond BTE. Fourteen students earned Johnson & Johnson scholarships, and collectively, they earned more than $200,000 worth of scholarships. Most of the students will be attending college this fall or some type of post-secondary training, and others have enlisted in the military. One student received a scholarship to Colorado College through the national QuestBridge Scholars program that covers full tuition as well as room, board and books and includes a monthly stipend.
From the time the program started in September 2017 through June 2020, the students participated in 48 activities including field trips to J&J locations and area colleges, soft-skill workshops, community service projects, job shadowing, professional development opportunities and regional and worldwide collaboration experiences with BTE peers.
“From team building to creating new projects, volunteering to help make goodie bags for the various homeless shelters to touring various colleges, BTE has given me an experience I will never forget,” said Oumayma Hameddine, who will be attending MCCC in the fall to study nursing.
The program not only taught them new skills, but it helped the students discover their career paths.
“I can thank BTE for the future I envision for myself. It’s because of this program that I want to take part in the emerging bioengineering and biotechnical field,” said Mayra Brown, who will be attending Temple University to study biological engineering.
During the course of the program, 28 Johnson & Johnson employees gave more than 1,185 hours to the program, along with five NAHS employees who spent countless hours supporting the program.
In addition to the Norristown program, MCCC also coordinated a one-year Bridge to Employment program for a cohort of 18 10th-grade students, and four 11th-grade Peer Mentors, from Wissahickon High School in Ambler, also in collaboration with The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Similar to the three-year program, students were introduced to careers in the health care sector and were prepared for a successful future in college and their careers.
Throughout the year, students took field trips to Johnson & Johnson sites and MCCC to learn about research, development, manufacturing, commercializing medicine and health care services and programs. With the help of Janssen employees serving as career coaches, the students learned about business etiquette, interpersonal communication, personal value assessment, goal setting, public speaking and more. By participating in a Strategies for College Success workshop series, the students earned two prior learning credits at MCCC.
Both the Norristown and Wissahickon BTE programs transitioned from in-person to online in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students were able to complete their activities virtually.
Pictured above (from top): Erika Turner, Dianna Reyes, Rahmon Adeshokan, Brian Leftwich, Aleshia Cofield, Bryan Jimenez and Mayra Brown.
Bailee Hendricks Basimah Curry Christian Venezia
Ciara Hale Dayanna Zeigler Adrianna Wright
Emilitza Trujillo Esther Rodriguez Evelyn Romera
Giuletta Marinucci Jazmin Hernandez Jordan James
Joselyn Morena-Mendez Lenny Duran Luis Parker
Miriam Ramirez Nathan Cochran Raisa Sabiha
Rashell Torres Talia Ayleen Alvarado Gonzalez Tyeirra Lynch