Atlantic Cape College Graduation

Olivia Aires receives her diploma Thursday from Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing.

MAYS LANDING — Students in Atlantic Cape Community College’s class of 2019 crossed the stage just in time to receive their degrees before a downpour struck the campus Thursday morning.

Maria Mento, chairwoman of Atlantic Cape’s Board of Trustees, awarded more than 750 associate degrees.

One of those degrees went to Rosa Osoria, 22, of Pleasantville, who completed her requirements for health science while balancing a full-time job as a hotel front desk clerk to support her family and three younger siblings.

“That was a really tough part because I wouldn’t even have enough time to sleep,” she said. “I’d stay up too late at night and then have to go to school, but I made it.”

Another went to Rubye Hutchinson, 53, who completed her requirements in human services and is a two-time cancer survivor.

“I just had to finish. I had to finish,” she said, “and I did.”

Commencement speaker and Cape May County Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, a 1979 graduate of the college, talked in her keynote address about persevering despite obstacles.

She shared her experience overcoming the challenges of being a woman determined to forge a career in law enforcement.

She sometimes teared up as she recalled facing opposition because of her gender. She said she lost job and promotion opportunities as she powered through her pregnancy while she was an officer, making an arrest the Friday before she gave birth.

“When life gives you lemons, you throw it back. You make butt-kicking lemonade with a side of chicken salad,” she said to the graduates.

She received her associate degree and went on to serve as an adjunct professor teaching criminal investigation. Hayes worked for the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, where she specialized in child abuse and sexual assault investigations. She retired as captain of detectives in 2009.

Along with serving as commencement speaker, Hayes was honored as one of four recipients of the 2019 Atlantic Cape Distinguished Alumni award.

Other recipients were Bert Lopez, manager of government and public affairs for Atlantic City Electric, class of 1981; Atlantic City police Deputy Chief James Sarkos, class of 1996; and Chad Affrunti, class of 2005.

For the first time ever, the community college also bestowed alumni awards for the “Top 4 Under 40.” Recipients were Felix Contreras-Castro, class of 2014; Nathan Evans Jr., Class of 2015; James Hennessey, class of 2000; and Toshira Maldonando-McIntosh, class of 2008.

Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @AublePressofAC

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