Charlotte Rodgers, of Morristown, is one of two graduates from the Class of 2015 at County College of Morris (CCM) to gain acceptance at the University of Pennsylvania for the Fall Semester. Even though she was a good student in high school, attending an Ivy League university was hardly within her reach at that time. It was her CCM education, she says, that allowed her to excel and gain notice.
“I could never have gotten into an Ivy League university coming out of high school,” says Rodgers. “I was a good student but compared to everyone else I was just average. Coming to CCM, I worked really hard and was able to stand out to other schools a lot more than I would have in high school.”
A math major at CCM, Rodgers explains that CCM as a two-year school actually offered her opportunities she would not have had at a larger four-year school. For example, she was able to develop her leadership skills as president of the college’s Women in STEM club.
“If I were at a four-year school, I never would have been president because I would have been competing with juniors and seniors for the position,” she notes.
“At CCM, however, you can get involved in leadership positions early in college.”
The smaller class sizes at CCM also allowed her to develop strong relationships with a number of professors, including Kelly Fitzpatrick, mathematics professor, and Jefferson Cartano, physics professor.
Fitzpatrick, says Rodgers, served as her mentor and as a role model for how women can succeed in STEM fields. She also encouraged Rodgers to take advantage of such opportunities as attending the 2014 American Association of University Women (AAUW) national conference. AAUW had awarded CCM a grant so several students could take part in that networking and learning opportunity.
“I kept thinking the whole time I was there that if I didn’t go to CCM, I never would have been able to take part in this,” says Rodgers.
Cartano, a graduate of Penn, was the one who encouraged her to apply to the university, wrote her a letter of recommendation and guided her through the admissions process. Now Rodgers also will be able to finish her higher education without taking on any student loans as a result of Penn’s financial aid policies.
CCM was not Rodgers’ first choice. But as one of four children raised by a single mom, she knew that there were not a lot of resources for funding multiple college educations and student loans were not an option she wanted to pursue.
“Just about every Saturday night, I would watch Suze Orman with my mom and often she would be interviewing people who were still paying off student loans in their 40s and 50s. I didn’t ever want to be in that position,” says Rodgers. “I am so grateful that I came to CCM, that I got into Penn and that I will be graduating with my bachelor’s with no student loans.”Photo Credit: Rick Burchfield