Women of Wonder - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Women of Wonder

By KRISTEN KELLEHER/Sentinel staff | Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:37 am

OCEAN CITY – Katrina Born started a degree at Atlantic Cape Community College in 1993, took time off to raise a family and returned to finish it in 2015. 

She juggled earning a degree at Atlantic Cape Community College with family life and two jobs. 

Through a scholarship, however, Born was able to reduce her hours at work and devote more time to her studies. 

Born was one of two current and former Atlantic Cape students who spoke on Thursday, Nov. 14, during the 2019 Women of Wonder Luncheon.  The fundraising event was held at the Flanders Hotel in Ocean City. 

The event, held by the Atlantic Cape Foundation and the Cape May County Women’s Commission, honored three exemplary women in the community and raised money for scholarships for female students. 

Maria Kellett, dean of Atlantic Cape’s Cape May County campus, said the Women of Wonder program started in 2011.  It was formed to help students in an alternative high school program, COMPACT in Cape May County, take courses at the community college through a tuition assistance program. 

“This was to empower them to make them feel like they could be successes, and I’m proud to say that we had 25 students come through that program while Cape May County COMPACT high school was still around and most of them got A’s and B’s and some of them became students at Atlantic Cape,” she said. 

The scholarship program has since changed its focus, and last year, the Atlantic Cape Foundation partnered with the Cape May County Women’s Commission for the event. 

It is now a scholarship for women. 

Born said her son, who attended Penn State at the time, was her inspiration. 

“He would say to me, ‘Mom, if you want something, you can achieve it. You just have to work for it, but it’s definitely worth the work,’” she said.

Born said she will receive her associate degree in human services in a few weeks. 

Roxanne LaPlant graduated from Atlantic Cape in 2016, after going through the COMPACT high school program. 

“If it wasn’t for COMPACT itself, I would never have been able to afford community college,” she said. 

LaPlant, originally from Philadelphia, said she was ready to drop out of high school at age 16 to help pay the bills. She said at 17, her house burned down. 

“If it wasn’t for that initial push to get me to do the scholarship, I would never have become a change in the statistics,” she said. 

The luncheon’s honorees were Stormy Freese, a microbiologist with the Cape May County Department of Mosquito Control, Karen Mahar, director of the Ocean City Free Public Library, and Shirley “Becki” Wilson, of the Delaware River and Bay Authority. 

Freese is also the chair of a young professionals group for the American Mosquito Control Association, and she started a young professionals group for the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association. 

Freese gave birth to a baby girl five days before receiving the Women of Wonder Award. 

She thanked the woman who recruited her to “be one of the professional women when she started at Mosquito Control.”

The experience opened her eyes to see how much she can contribute, she said. 

“I thank you for the success for the five years I’ve continued helping young women find their way, and say it’s okay to change what they would like to do and to explore other options because no one told me that when I was in school.  They told me to pick a major and stick with it.”

Freese planned to study physical therapy in college. 

She said she hoped to “continue to do great things” and said it was an honor “to be up here with other extraordinary women.”

Wilson read a quote from the Dalai Lama, which she refers to all the time. 

“We are visitors on this planet. We are here for 90 or 100 years at the most. During that period, we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives. If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life and the true goal in it,” she said. 

Wilson, who said she has been a social worker for her entire adult life, felt the meaning of her life has been to help others.

She thanked those who came out to support the scholarship and said it was so important to raise money for students who do not have the money to go to school. 

Those students may have the brains and the ability to attend, but without the money “therefore, they don’t get a chance at life,” she said. 

Mahar said she stood in great company and said that “among us here today there are many women of wonder.”

“Community connections are happening all the time in our library to promote lifelong learning.  New moms connect at baby programs. Toddlers enjoy storytimes. Teens collaborate on projects and college students utilize our electronic resources,” Mahar said. 

She said they partner with the city, schools, police and fire departments, the Ocean City Historical Museum, the Ocean City Arts Center, Aquatic and Fitness Center, the Ocean City Pops Orchestra, the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, and more, to provide events and programs. 

Mahar said she tried to maintain a positive attitude to make her life more meaningful and shared a quote by Charles R. Swindoll about attitude. 

“Attitude is more important than facts.  It is more important than education, than money, than failures, than success, than what other people think, say or do. Attitude will make or break a business, a home, a friendship. The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day of what your attitude will be,” Mahar said, quoting Swindoll. 

Mahar thanked her staff, the library’s board of directors, and the Friends and Volunteers of the Ocean City Free Public Library “for everything you’ve done to help the library succeed. 

She also thanked her family, who she said was a constant source of strength and motivation for her. 

To learn more about the annual Women of Wonder Award, see www.atlantic.edu/about/foundation/.