Brookdale’s Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) Navigators are out in the community helping to spread the word about Brookdale and tuition-free higher education available for students who meet the CCOG criteria.

Brookdale’s CCOG Navigators are Dr. Fidel Wilson, Jorge Terreros, Tarin Varvar and Birgit Mondesir. The Navigators attend community events and partner with local resource organizations to get the message about affordable higher education and the college’s programs out to the community.

Picture of Fidel Wilson.

Wilson, Brookdale’s Director of Early College High School and Educational Partnerships, said the key role of a navigator is to help remove barriers for students to pursue higher education. By attending events and speaking to various groups, he and his colleagues are able to make a connection with many individuals who are uncertain about next steps in their life and career.

“As a navigator, I’ve met with a lot of people in the local communities and learned about the role of various organizations in Monmouth County,” said Wilson, who covers the Greater Asbury Park / Neptune Area.

Some of the non-profit organizations Wilson has worked with include the Community Affairs Resource Center (CARC), Second Baptist Church (Asbury Park), Monmouth / Ocean County Panhellenic Council, Jersey Shore Dream Center, Glad Tidings Church, and the Aweless Charity Music Festival.

“The community members seem really happy that we are in attendance for a lot of the events,” said Terreros, who covers the Greater Freehold area. “They are very welcoming and grateful for our presence.”Picture of Jorge.

In early August, Terreros, who also works as a Student Success Coach/Advisor at Brookdale, represented the college at the Third Annual Freehold Family & Community Picnic at Veterans Park in Freehold. “This role allows me to do some outreach to some of the populations that are overlooked, like the Hispanic community,” he said. Because he has been attending events and working with different community organizations during the year, the community reached out to him to invite him to spread the world about the CCOG grant at the picnic.

In addition to participating in community events, Navigators have held information sessions at local libraries throughout the county. “They love the convenience of going down the street and getting answers to their questions as opposed to taking two buses to try to get onto campus,” said Varvar about the well-attended library sessions.

“Working in admissions, I come across a lot of people who don’t know where to start and what to do but want to come to Brookdale,” Varvar, who also works as a Student Services Associate for the Office of Admissions, explained. “I thought working as a CCOG Navigator would be a great way to get that information out to the community.” Varvar covers the Greater Bayshore Area.

Wilson echoed Varvar’s sentiment. “Many have a desire to gain a degree and to advance in their careers,” he said. “By outlining the resources at Brookdale and a path, we hope to show them it’s possible.”

Picture of Birgit.“I have always been very active in the community,” said Mondesir, who works at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Red Bank She is also the acting chair of the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission and has always been involved with social justice movements. “I am always preaching about education, and I have always been involved with youth activities, so this position is a combination of the two,” said about Mondesir who covers the Greater Red Bank Area.

“Education is one of the social economical separators that exist in America,” Mondesir said. “This position allows me to reach those who are most marginalized and let them know about this opportunity for education.”