44th Annual Commencement

Spotlight on Our

Miguel De Jesus, Jr.

Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts/English

Awards and Honors

  • Graduates with High Honors
  • English Department Graduate Academic Excellence Award 
  • Graduate Leadership Award Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) / President Alpha Eta Chi
  • PTK Regional Distinguished Chapters Officer Award
  • PTK Chapter Officer Hall of Fame Award
  • Honors Program
  • 2015-2016 All-NJ Academic Team
  • Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities (2015)
  • 2015-2016 Student Leader of the Year Award 

A Late-Bloomer Honors His Roots at PCCC

“It was my hope that my mother would see me graduate,” said Miguel De Jesus, a 40-year-old honor student who, on May 19, will be the first in his family to receive a college degree. Sadly, Miguel’s mother, who had lung cancer, passed away last week.  “I’m at peace with it,” said Miguel just days before his mother was to be removed from a ventilator. “She’s been suffering, and it’s time to let go.” This calm acceptance is another example of the resilient character that enabled Miguel to overcome a difficult youth, pursue his college degree in middle age, and achieve such academic and leadership distinction that even Harvard took notice. “Graduating from PCCC is bittersweet,” said Miguel, who will receive his Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts/English. “I’ve set some roots here.”

Those PCCC roots go deep and enabled Miguel to blossom as a scholar, leader, and writer who aspires to a career teaching English at the college level. He recently published his first book, a volume of poetry titled “The Perception of a Paterson Poet” and is now working on a children’s book. As an elementary school student, the lifelong Paterson resident was placed in gifted and talented programs where his love for reading and creative activities provided solace from a turbulent home life. He graduated from Passaic County Technical Institute and planned to attend Montclair State College, as it was known then, but decided against it when he learned he would become a father. “Life happens,”said Miguel. “I went to work instead to support my family.” 

Over the years, he worked as a roofer, typesetter, and gardener. College was no longer in the picture. But when his eldest daughter started college, Miguel said he “had an epiphany,” and decided to enroll in PCCC to pursue his own degree. Since then, he has been in the challenging honors program, become a tutor, assumed leadership positions and also founded PCCC’s first poetry club, Real Artistic Writers (RAW). 
In 2015, Miguel was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society where he has served for the past year as president of the PCCC chapter, Alpha Eta Chi. He was nominated this year for PTK’s  All-USA Team  and was one of two members from PCCC named to the  2016 All-NJ Academic Team. 
For the second consecutive year, Miguel merited a listing in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. Last year he was one of three PCCC students selected by the 2015 International Scholar Laureate Program for a global studies opportunity (for family reasons, he was unable to travel.) He was also named Student Leader of the Year by the Student Government Association and was nominated for this year’s English Department Award. 

An innovative and hardworking leader, Miguel is thrilled that PCCC’s PTK chapter recently took home 19 awards from Nerd Nation, PTK’s annual convention.  This is the  first time Alpha Eta Chi had such a distinguished showing. Among the awards were two for Miguel, the Distinguished Chapters Officer Award and Chapter Officer Hall of Fame Award “I was taken aback,” he said. “When I attended last year and saw other chapters winning those major awards, I wondered why that couldn’t be us.” 
He set out to change that by increasing his networking and collaborative efforts on behalf of Alpha Eta Chi.He also credits Professor Jennifer Gasparino, the PTK advisor, for the support that honed his leader-ship skills.  “I didn’t think I had what it took to lead that way, but Professor Gasparino polished me,” said Miguel. “I learned a lot, including that I should sometimes take a step back and allow other members to become leaders.” With offers from numerous colleges, including Harvard University, Miguel chose to continue his education at Seton Hall University where he received a scholarship and will enter an accelerated program to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“I appreciated the opportunity Harvard offered, but I didn’t want to uproot my family or leave them behind to go there,” he explained.  “When I visited Seton Hall, I felt it was the right place for me.”His goal to teach English in college was inspired by the PCCC faculty who made a profound difference in his life, particularly Professors Gasparino, Brian Lorio, and Karen Schmidt.
“Sometimes in the transition from high school to college, people can get lost, like I did,” said Miguel who waited 28 years to fulfill his college dreams.  “My professors here guided me, and I want to become that compass for others.”