Education changes lives and it will be no different this year when more than 2300 graduates march down the aisle at the Prudential Center to accept their diplomas from NJIT. Students who reflect the optimism of commencement include:(ATTENTION MEDIA: To attend commencement and learn more about these students, contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436.)
Alexander Salazar (Garfield): Window Maker Turned Structural Engineer
When he was 19, Alexander Salazar, of Garfield, left Colombia, his homeland, for America. He loved Colombia but wanted to pursue his dream: To build bridges and skyscrapers. But for his first seven years here, Salazar worked for a window and door factory to survive, took classes at Bergen Community College and transferred to NJIT.
Salazar will graduate with an almost-perfect GPA, five scholarships, enrolled in the Albert Dorman Honors College and more. Even better, come fall, he’ll enter Princeton University to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering. Princeton offered him a Presidential Fellowship that covers tuition and fees and stipend. He’ll conduct research in structural engineering and work as a teaching assistant.
Walter Vittitoe (Laurence Harbor): A Graduate, Against All Odds
Walter Vittitoe, 28, exemplifies the spirit of NJIT, a college of opportunity. He’s hard-working and persistent, bright and able, good-hearted and grateful. Before enrolling, Vittitoe worked for eight years as a machinist, taking classes at Middlesex County College. He excelled and transferred here. A daily four-hour commute from Laurence Harbor to campus by train has never deterred him. Commuting and studying have occupied all his time. His hard work and determination are reflected in his GPA: a 4.0. In a recent personal essay, he wrote that after graduation he wants to work in the field of robotics. And when he starts working, his first priority will be pay back his parents to replenish their savings. “They are approaching retirement and can use the money.”
Gil Bento (Howell): Banker By Day; Laptop Orchestra Soloist By Night
Less than two months after commencement, Gil Benton, a senior majoring in business, starts full-time work at Credit Suisse Bank. That’s the day job. At night, he’ll return to pursue a master’s degree program from NJIT’s School of Management and continue jamming with the New Jersey Laptop Orchestra, which recently cut its first compact disc. Bento has helped the group grow both as musician and business manager. He dreams of learning through his volunteer job how to market music in today’s ever-changing electronic environment. “The music sounds as if it could only appear in the 21st century,” said David Rothenberg, a professor in the humanities department who directs the ensemble.
Derek McClung (Hamilton): Bright Future as a Field Engineer
The future looks bright for Derek McClung, who participated extensively while at NJIT in Rebuilding Together. The organization is a national nonprofit that rehabs homes for low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and anyone with disabilities. Following three paid internships, McClung will step into a full-time position as a field engineer with Turner Construction Company. McClung transferred to NJIT’s engineering technology department from Mercer County Community College to become an engineer. Five scholarships later, he will achieve his goal. “NJIT offers the groundwork for a successful future,” he says.