Student of the Year is Lehigh Carbon Community College’s most prestigious annual honor. Students are nominated by instructors, and the winners are chosen by the LCCC Faculty Association based on their performance in and out of the classroom. For 2022, Jace Izellah Mary was named Student of the Year, and Tucker Zimmerman was named Early College Student of the Year.
Jace Izellah Mary – Honors Scholar, A.S. in Physics
Earning a college degree is a remarkable achievement in the best of times but earning a degree during a global pandemic is even more remarkable. As the first student in her family to attend college in the U.S., Jace Izellah Mary initially chose LCCC because of the college’s incredible cost savings. In addition, LCCC offered the benefit of being close to home in the Lehigh Valley, where her family has lived since they moved from the Philippines.
After a high school presentation from LCCC’s admissions office, Mary was interested in learning more. “When the Admissions representative said the Honors Scholars program would cover my tuition, I was sold,” Mary said. “The uncertainty that came with the pandemic only solidified my decision.”
Mary knew almost instantly that she’d made the right choice. “At LCCC, I felt welcomed and accepted. My efforts and hard work were noticed and encouraged. I met so many different people from all age groups, political views, general upbringing and ethnic backgrounds,” she said. The diversity of the student body helped Mary feel much less like an outsider, a feeling she said came from attending public school as an immigrant.
She was active on campus as a member of Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa. “We sponsored a lot of virtual events because we couldn’t be on campus,” she said. She later served as SGA president and PTK vice-president in spring 2022 when most students returned to campus. Reflecting on her time in both organizations, “We held a lot of in-person events. It was work but also fun!”
Mary can’t help but look back on her unique two years at LCCC, “I think back on all the hard work…to finish my degree. There were so many times I thought, ‘This is it. I’m going to fail’, but I managed to pull through every single time.” She is grateful for the support system of family, friends, faculty and administrators at LCCC who helped her every step of the way.
She plans to continue her education at Temple University as a bioengineering major with a concentration in engineering devices.
Tucker Zimmerman—Early College Student of the Year, A.A. in General Studies
Students in LCCC’s Early College program get a jump start on their college education while still in high school. Tucker Zimmerman had been a student at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and on track to graduate by the end of his junior year—“However, upon hearing about the Early College Program that my local high school, William Allen, offered, I felt that it was an exceptional opportunity…I had never officially attended a public school, as I had gone directly from homeschool to cyberschool.
“On top of the financially beneficial opportunity the Early College program presented, I also saw it as a chance to attend public school for the first time. This would enable me to warm up to that experience before diving headfirst into a four-year, out-of-state university,” Zimmerman said. He said engaging with professors was one of the most enjoyable aspects of his LCCC experience.
After graduation, he plans to continue to establish and nourish connections with those he meets. He plans on attending LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, to study mission aviation, a major that will help him reach his goal of becoming a missionary pilot. The profession will require him to spend extended periods of time in impoverished countries providing various basic needs to the residents of these nations.
While LCCC’s Early College program provided Zimmerman with a stepping stone to completing his undergraduate studies, the experience also offered him the ability to meet, connect with, and help people. “The rewards [the program] can yield for those willing to put their best foot forward toward it are incalculable,” he said.