Jen Raftery may have the coolest part-time job ever.

Like most 20-year-old college students, the Ocean City native goes to her classes and does plenty of studying as a communications major at Pace University in New York City.

But when she boards the bus to New Jersey for work, it’s to perform in front of thousands of people as a member of the New Jersey Nets dance team.

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Raftery, whose parents, Thomas and Suzanne, reside in Ocean City, did some acting and singing in high school and took dance lessons at The Dance Place of Ocean City. After getting the performance bug, she decided to audition for the New York Knicks two years ago, but she wasn’t chosen.

She did, however, become a member of the dance team for the former New York Titans in the National Lacrosse League. So when NBA dance tryouts came around again, she auditioned for the Nets’ team, competing against 300 other women and securing one of 15 spots on the team.

“There is some intense competition,” said Raftery, the youngest member on the team who wants to work in the broadcast business after graduation, possibly as a casting director. “I absolutely love it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. The dancing is fun, but it’s also extremely challenging. Between school and this, it’s a little overwhelming. But I would do it if I didn’t get paid. The money helps, though, It’s sure better than being a waitress or something like that.”

Breakout karate champ

Egg Harbor Township’s Mike Spizzuco Jr. is good at breaking things. In fact, he’s a champ at it.

The 20-year-old Seton Hall University student became a world champion for the fifth time in the breaking competition at the National Blackbelt League Super Grand World Games in Buffalo, N.Y., in December. It is the most anyone has ever won that event. He also placed third and fifth in Japanese and Korean forms, which he won in previous years along with a traditional weapons title. He is the youngest person to ever win the breaking title in the adult division.

Winning the breaking title was certainly not a painless accomplishment. He broke his hand in the middle of the competition after he easily broke through a three-foot board and hit the floor with his hand. With the injury, he went on to break three baseball bats taped together with his forearm and break six bricks at one time to clinch the title.

It’s not the first time he broke his hand, and it probably won’t be the last. After training for 14 years, Spizzuco had reconstructive knee surgery when he was 16, and he is already battling some back issues.

 “I have an injury list that’s a mile long,” said Spizzuco, who credits his father, Mike Sr., 50, a former competitor who helps his son train regularly. “I prove that it’s not all about power. Everyone else … they’re power breakers. I mix it up. It’s about power, speed and finesse.”

Short StoriesThe residents of Cape May County Village, a 15-house village in Haiti built through funds raised by locals in Cape May County, were unharmed by the recent earthquake, according to Cape May Court House’s Ann Herron, one of the group’s founders. The group is currently collecting powdered and canned milk, cans of fish, meat and vegetables, diapers and medicine at Our Lady of the Angels Church’s Social Justice Group on 35 Mechanic St. in Cape May Court House. Everything collected will go to Burke, Va., and then be shipped to Haiti. … Ocean City Director of Public Works Mike Rossbach and Operations Manager and Recycling Coordinator Mark Wright were presented with certificates of appreciation by the Ocean City Community Association for the city’s participation and support in citizen-initiated environmental cleanup and beautification programs. The city assists community organizations by providing guidance, supplies and scheduling pickups, and many city staff members volunteer for the programs. … Harrah’s Entertainment will create a scholarship for Atlantic City High School students to honor Redenia Gilliam-Mosee, a former casino executive, educator and community activist who died Jan. 1. Harrah’s will administer the scholarship program and work with the Atlantic City High School Education Foundation. The scholarships will be awarded in the spring.


Sports Editor Mark Melhorn contributed to this column.

Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays and Wednesdays. To share your story, call Scott Cronick at 609-272-7017 or e-mail him at


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