Cecilia Alcantar, from South Amboy, NJ, a journalism major at Brookdale Community College, was one of eight Brookdale students honored with the Outstanding Student Award for academic excellence, community service, and personal accomplishments.

“I started at Brookdale as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student, as I had recently moved back to the United States after living in Mexico for 10 years,” Alcantar said. “It was a very emotional moment when I found out I was selected as an Outstanding Student because it showed me that everything I have gone through these past years was worth it,” she said. “Taking classes in a language I did not grow up speaking is a very hard challenge, and I hope that this inspires students not only at Brookdale but in any other college or education level to not give up.”

Alcantar certainly did not give up. While taking ESL classes at Brookdale she also took college-level classes. After finishing the ESL program, she initially was a photography major but later switched to journalism.

“When discussing Cecilia’s academic accomplishments, one must look beyond her 3.9 GPA and also consider how her dedication to learning improves outcomes for her peers,” said Deborah Mura, professor in the communication media department at Brookdale. “She is a natural leader who steps into positions of authority as a means to serve and empower those around her which is evident in her with work with PTK and a variety of student clubs,” Mura said.

A member of the Student Radio and Podcasting Club, Filmmakers Club, and the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, Alcantar is also a regular contributor to The Current, Brookdale’s student newspaper. “All of these clubs provided me with connections and people who I consider my friends and still am in contact with,” said Alcantar. She served as the treasure of the PTK Honor Society last year and is currently the vice president of leadership as well as the secretary of the radio club.

Last year’s Honors in Action project for PTK focused on creating a healthier environment and better future by explaining small steps we can all take. Alcantar was instrumental in organizing the project. “To say that Cecilia truly lives what she believes is an understatement,” said Angela Saragusa, professor in the English department at Brookdale and faculty advisor for PTK. “She was, and continues to be, a leader in demonstrating the effect we can have if we take small steps every day,” Saragusa said.

Alcantar was also influential in creating Brookdale’s Student2Student program where student mentors assist other Brookdale students who are struggling to adapt to virtual learning or making the transition to college. “This commitment to her college and community makes her a standout among her peers,” Saragusa said.

“Getting involved is what helped me go through my last couple of semesters,” Alcantar said. “Knowing that you are a part of something and that there are people around you who are probably going through the same as you is very comforting. Not only does it help build your resume, but it also helps you build yourself as a student and a person.”

In the fall, Alcantar is transferring to Montclair State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in TV production. “I’m excited for what is to come in the future,” she said.