Stockton Scholarship Program Highlights Atlantic City’s Diversity

Scholarship Program Highlights Atlantic City’s Diversity

August 16, 2022


Atlantic City, N.J. — Three years ago when Al and Gail Engelberg first donated $1 million to Stockton University to create a scholarship program, the couple wanted to make a significant impact on Atlantic City and celebrate its diversity.

In 2022 as the first cohort has graduated, the latest recipients of the Engelberg Leadership Scholarship are a vivid example of the city’s melting pot.

The families of Karen Pelaez Moreno (Mexico), Dylan Nhan (Vietnam), Shakila Riaz (Pakistan) and Abu Shahariah (Bangladesh) emigrated from other countries, but they all have a deep desire to give back to their home — Atlantic City.

“I want to be a role model for other kids in Atlantic City,” said Moreno, who is majoring in Health Science with the goal of entering the Accelerated Nursing Program at Stockton. “They often don’t have anyone else to talk to besides their parents and having somebody that would be able to guide them on the right path is something that I really want to do.”

To qualify for the Engelberg Leadership Scholars Program (ELSP), students must be rising sophomores at Stockton and either live in Atlantic City or to have graduated from Atlantic City High School. Each year, four students are chosen who will have all costs — tuition, room and board, fees, books — paid for during their remaining time at Stockton.

“This program is much more than a scholarship,” said Michelle Craig McDonald, an associate professor of History and a faculty advisor for ELSP. “This program is about building communities, both a community of students within this scholarship program, and a community of learning experiences and mentoring opportunities in partnership with Atlantic City.”

Earlier this year, the Engelbergs committed an additional $700,000 to continue the program for another three cohorts. The program also provides opportunities for the students to meet and network with business and community leaders during their time at Stockton.

“This is just the beginning of your process,” said Rabbi David Weis, who represented the Engelbergs at a dinner in July held for all previous and current members of the program. “This is not just a scholarship. This is an opportunity to grow in ways you couldn’t imagine. We want to make sure our students be given every opportunity to grow, learn and accomplish whatever it is they want to accomplish.

“Our goal is to create the future leaders of Atlantic City.”

Each of the students in this year’s cohort is eager to start.

Riaz is majoring in Literature with a concentration in Secondary Education and hopes to be an English teacher. She’s in the Honors Program at Stockton and was involved her first year with the Pakistani and Muslim student associations.

“I want to make sure that I’m a part of the city,” the Atlantic County Institute of Technology graduate said. “I want to be able to make an impact and give back to the community as much as I can.”

Nhan is in the Mathematics/Engineering dual-degree program. He joined Stockton’s esports team during his first year and was part of the Stockton Entertainment Team. He knows the scholarship is an “amazing opportunity” and that it’s allowing him to focus more on his education rather than the financing for college.

“I think it’s a good chance to teach the youth of Atlantic City about the potential they have when they are older, and to give back to the community,” he said.

He also said that he hopes the program will be helpful in his career and provide sources for future internships.

“It will give me connections to people that I probably would not have known without this,” the Atlantic City High School graduate said.

Shahariah’s dream job is to be a tech reviewer or work in management in the tech industry. The Atlantic City High School graduate has decided to major in Computer Information Systems and hopes to use some of the knowledge gained at Stockton to help others with new technology.

“I’m hoping to find new ways to help others with technology where I can educate them about what sorts of things they can do with technology,” he said. “This program is enabling these students to find their careers in which they can help others.”

Helping others is very important to Pelaez Moreno, who worked as a hospice volunteer with AtlantiCare. She’s now a patient care associate with AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus in Atlantic City.

“I’m just getting a lot of experience on how nurses work and just soaking everything up,” she said.

Pelaez Moreno is the first in her family to go to college. With four other siblings, the scholarship has relieved a huge financial burden on her family.

“I wish that everyone had this opportunity, but I’m going to make the most of it and fulfill my dreams of becoming a nurse and be able to give back to Atlantic City the same way the Engelbergs did,” she said.

Weis has no doubt the latest cohort will succeed just like the previous three groups.

“Our students have achieved so much more than we ever imagined,” he said. “They have blown us away with their confidence, their skills and their accomplishments. I know that this new cohort will fill their shoes.”

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