Michelle and Cassandra Taylor say that attending Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) has made a dramatic change in their lives.
As full-time, first-generation college students, the mother/daughter team have leaned on each other and celebrated accomplishments that they say they never dreamed possible.
For the Salem residents, this past May was a month of whirlwind activity with years of hitting the books and being involved in extra-curricular activities culminating into a successful college experience.
Cassandra, the first to enroll at RCGC, encouraged her mother to also register for a few courses. Although both were nervous about attending college for different reasons— Cassandra lives with Asperger’s Syndrome and Michelle had been out of the classroom for a while —they yearned for a better life and saw education as a way to achieve it.
“I have grown a lot by being here. When I first came to the College, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. During my time here, I have learned ways to cope with my Asperger’s and my experience at RCGC has been a good one. I have learned how to deal with different people in different situations,” said Cassandra, who graduated with an Arts & Sciences degree and plans to transfer in the fall to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
“This is the most supportive place I have been in my life. Eventually, I would like to earn a master’s degree in art therapy and help veterans troubled by post-traumatic stress disorder and drug problems.”
Always a part of the action and a familiar face around campus, Cassandra is a big advocate of students getting involved, and not just going to class. An active member in clubs and organizations, like the Student Government Association (SGA), American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC), Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA) and Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) — the international academic honors society for two-year colleges — she’s also a student worker at the College.
With her daughter spending so much of her time at RCGC, Michelle began to do the same in order to see more of her. Soon she too was hooked, volunteering and making new friends. It wasn’t long before Michelle transitioned from being an “honorary” member to joining PTK and signing on as an SGA Senator.
“I like Phi Theta Kappa and what the organization stands for. I have always been involved. It’s like family,” stated Michelle, an Arts & Sciences graduate interested in returning to RCGC to take a few business courses. Her ultimate quest is to open an art studio. “It was amazing to be inducted into the honor society on May 4. The ceremony was beautiful and it was nice seeing the expanded PTK family.”
This year, Michelle was one of the 266 Phi Theta Kappa students inducted into the honor society. RCGC’s Alpha Psi Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa was named a 2018 REACH Rewards program winner, recognized for excelling in membership development. As a result, 15 members received free graduation stoles commemorating PTK’s 100th anniversary to wear during the commencement ceremony. On May 10, mother and daughter marched proudly in the commencement ceremony wearing their gold honor stoles.
“I know how hard my mother has worked academically. Seeing her grow ... it’s a way of the universe telling her, you’ve got this,” said Cassandra, who serves as PTK’s vice president of service. “It was awesome. I’m really proud of her.”
Rowan College at Gloucester County’s 250-acre campus is located on Tanyard Road in Deptford, just off Exit 56 of Route 55.
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