Alumnus Says Phi Theta Kappa and PCCC Transformed His Life

Students instructor talking to each other

Alumni Spotlight

Posted 3-16-15

Abel  Jimenez – Class of 2011

Human Services Specialist,
Passaic County Board of Social Services
A.S. Degree in Human Services/Addictions
Passaic County Community College
Phi Theta Kappa

B.A. Summa Cum Laude, Rutgers University
M.S.W.  Rutgers University
Pi Alpha Pi
Co-founder/Vice president
World Organization for Positive Action

Phi Theta Kappa:  A Transformational Experience
for Alumnus Dedicated to Public Service

When Abel Jimenez  (’11)  was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK)  honor society at PCCC, it was a transformational moment for him. “I had never belonged to an elite academic group before,” said Abel, an underachiever in high school and one-time college dropout.  “Being in PTK helped me to believe in myself and my own abilities.”

Abel graduated from PCCC with honors and an A.S. Degree in Human Services/Addictions.
He went on to Rutgers University where he received a dual bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in Human Services and Psychology, earned a master’s degree in public administration, and was inducted into Pi Alpha Alpha, the honor society for students of public administration.

Today, the Paterson resident works as a human service specialist for the Passaic County Board of Social Services and as a part-time substance abuse counselor with the Passaic Alliance.

A philanthropist and passionate advocate for education, Abel is co-founder and executive vice president of World Organization for Positive Action (WOPA), a  non-profit organization that aims to do good in the world, often responding to humanitarian needs for food and shelter.

“In the past few years, our focus has shifted to education,” said Abel.  “We’ve built schools in Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and El Salvador and also provided 16 scholarships to PCCC.”

Growing up in a close-knit family that emigrated from the Dominican Republic, Abel says he was a “troublemaker in high school,” who bounced to four different New York City high schools before he finally graduated from Washington Irving High School. 

“The assistant principal there believed in me, and made it her mission that I would get my diploma,” he explained.

After a brief stint at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, he dropped out. “I still didn’t take school seriously,” said Abel.  “I was done with education.”

He entered the business world working for Sears and other retail companies and successfully rose to managerial positions, but then his advancement hit a ceiling. “I noticed the top jobs were going to people with college degrees,” said Abel.  “It was an eye opener.” 

Abel’s wife, Deanna, and younger brother, Luis, both urged him to return to college. 
A senior executive in a New York firm, Deanna, was adamant that her husband attend college.   “Education is very important to her,” explained Abel. 

In 2009, he enrolled in PCCC, starting with remedial classes while working full-time.   “I had a lot of catching up to do,” he explains. “I had no plan but was convinced a college education would elevate my life.” 

Initially a business major, he changed direction after taking a Human Services course with professor Michael D’Arcangelo. “That was it for me,” said Abel, who was deeply impressed by the professor’s teaching style and commitment to his students.

The opportunity to build a career helping others was another attraction. “I feel so fortunate to do what I do every day,” said Abel. “I am making a difference for others.”

A devoted family man whose Christian principles guide his life, Abel is currently on paternity leave from work, caring for his seven-month old son, Ryu.  “I wrote my master’s thesis on the importance of family leave for both mothers and fathers,” he explained.

Looking to return to his job later this spring, Abel is in the process of obtaining his Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor certification, while working on WOPA projects and also contemplating a doctoral degree, possibly at Columbia University. 

Abel said some of his public services projects captured the attention of the Ivy League university. “They contacted me about a Ph.D. program they thought I would be suited for,” he explained. “I’m considering it.”