News Department

Hitting his stride

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — Jason Toledo of Trenton flew under the radar in high school. While he played lacrosse, Toledo really didn’t distinguish himself academically or through other extracurricular activities.

“I wasn’t known at my high school,” he recalls. “Academics weren’t a big thing for me. I was just the guy who flew by high school.”

That changed when Toledo enrolled at Centenary University, where administrators now describe him as a superstar student leader. He recently graduated from the University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology; during the ceremony a host of stoles and cords—recognition for all he’s accomplished—decorated Toledo’s graduation gown. He was also the recipient of the Seay Honors Award, presented to a senior who displays leadership and character, as well as the Psychology Department’s Student-Athlete Award for excelling in the classroom and their respective sport.  “Wearing those cords and stoles meant a lot to me,” Toledo explains.

“In high school, I didn’t achieve a lot. College changed everything. Commencement was the culmination of everything I had worked so hard for,” Toledo said.

At Centenary, Toledo was a member of the University’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which provides underserved students with financial, academic, social, and emotional support to succeed in college, and later, in the workforce. He supplemented an EOP scholarship with earnings working on campus as a resident assistant to ensure that his mother—an immigrant from Costa Rica—wouldn’t have to worry about how to pay tuition.

Encouraged by members of Centenary’s EOP Office, including Devon Vialva, assistant dean of diversity and inclusion and EOP director, and Eunice Boyd, EOP assistant director, as well as Centenary faculty such as Stephen Davis, associate professor of theatre arts, Toledo hit his stride, assuming leadership roles on campus and developing a strong academic reputation. During his four years at Centenary, Toledo served as captain of Centenary’s lacrosse team, vice president of the LatinX Club, Student Government Association representative, and president of Omega Rho Fraternity, which volunteers in the local community, including collecting food for underprivileged people. Academically, Toledo was inducted to the Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society and was a lacrosse Academic All-American.

Toledo has also developed a deep commitment to community service. Every Thursday, he volunteered at Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown to unload trucks with food pantry donations. Working alongside church members sparked friendships with fellow volunteers. At this year’s men’s lacrosse Senior Day, Toledo was surprised and honored when a senior citizen he’s worked with turned out to cheer him on: “That was great; it was so nice of him. I volunteer because I enjoy helping people and everyone was super nice to me. I just love being surrounded by good people.”

Now, Toledo is paying it forward with a new full-time job as a residence life coordinator at Seton Hall University, where he’s preparing to begin a master’s degree. “I’m interested in sports psychology,” Toledo said.

“Sometimes stress, anxiety, or pressure can affect athletes so much that they can’t perform physically. I’d like to combine my two passions: sports and helping other people,” Toledo said.

Of his undergraduate years, Toledo adds, “I don’t think I would be the person I am if it wasn’t for Centenary. People here really pushed me in the right direction and advocated for me. I’m not perfect—not the smartest or most athletic—but people at Centenary saw my potential.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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