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Phiota becomes youngest NJ Community College Trustee

Saturday, February 12, 2011   (2 Comments)
Posted by: Alberto Elvira
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Phiota becomes youngest NJ Community College Trustee

Mercer County Freeholders select 23-year-old to serve on MCCC Board of Trustees

Friday, February 11, 2011
Matt Fair

TRENTON -- The average age of members of Mercer County Community College's Board of Trustees decreased considerably last night as the county Board of Freeholders voted a 23-year-old Trenton native to a seat on the school's governing body.

Shamil Rodriguez, who turns 24 next month, recently moved back to Mercer County after spending several years earning his undergraduate degree at St. John's University in Queens, N.Y.

Rodriguez was nominated to the seat on the nine-member board by County Executive Brian Hughes, who said it was important for young people to be of use early in public service.

"We agree that we need to have young people involved in all of our social activities and all of our public services," Hughes said. "He is doing something that we want young people to do."

Interviewed by the Mercer County Freeholders last night, Rodriguez said he grew up against a working class background in Trenton. He attended Trenton Central High School before transferring to Lawrence High School after his father was deployed to Iraq. His mother, he said, held a job with a state office in Trenton.

Rodriquez became the first person in his family to attend college, and he said he would be able to serve as a role model for people who come from a similar background.

"I believe that there are a lot more people who are out there who are in my age range who just need to be tapped or touched in a certain way that can help push them in that direction that puts them over the edge," Rodriguez said. "I think it would be extremely influential and hopefully will (inspire) a few others who might think they aren't able to do it. If they see somebody like them on the board, it can motivate them to push forward."

He said first-generation college students are among those most likely to halt their college careers prematurely.

"If you look at the drop-out percentages in college, most of those people are students who are first-generation and at-risk," he said.

And while Rodriguez earned yea votes from all but one member of the freeholder board last night, some concern was expressed that he didn't possess the requisite experience to help govern the school.

"I'm not going to tread lightly around this. I do not support your nomination, and it is not because I don't like you or respect what you've done," said Freeholder Lucylle Walters, who cast the lone dissenting vote. "I don't feel you're what we need on this board. I have concerns about the building projects that are going to be going on at the community college and whether you have a wealth of background knowledge to bring to that process. I have concerns about the budget process and the learning curve to handle that," she said.

Rodriguez said he was nominated to the board after meeting Hughes last spring when he returned to Mercer County and expressed an interest in getting involved in local government.

Rodriguez works as a lobbyist for the Trenton-based Princeton Public Affairs Group. He graduated from St. John's with a degree in government and politics and has worked as field director for U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.

Contact Matt Fair at or at (609) 989-5707.


Giovanni A. Abril says...
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011
This is a great accomplishment! Congratulations, brother! You make us proud!
Yvan S. Limbal says...
Posted Thursday, February 17, 2011
Great to see Phiota men doing great things in the community. Keep up the good work brother, have fun and stay PROGRESSIVE

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