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Inspiring journey: Centenary University graduate finds the light in academic challenges

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — Lauren Fernicola knows what it’s like for young kids to struggle in school. Growing up in Bridgewater Township she started having difficulties in school in the second grade that carried on through high school.

But Fernicola had a dream to become a special education teacher and use her own experiences to help kids facing similar challenges. Undeterred, she and her parents sought out a university that would provide the support Fernicola needed to earn a four-year college degree. That’s when she found Centenary University.

Fernicola recently graduated from Centenary with a teaching degree with certification as a teacher of students with disabilities. Along the way, she was inducted into two academic honor societies, proving what she knew all along—the right support can make all the difference to students with learning differences.

“I thrive with support from my instructors,” Fernicola said. “It helps to know that there are professors in the program that I can email at any moment and ask to meet up in their office before or after class, even if I’m just having a bad day.”

Fernicola was initially terrified at the thought of attending college but soon settled in at Centenary. Her professors and tutors helped her find the support programs she needed to succeed academically, as well as extracurricular activities like serving as an admissions ambassador. She’s always loved music, so she became a member and eventually co-president of the Cyc-Tones, the University’s acapella group. Fernicola was also inducted into Kappa Delta Epsilon, the education honor society, and Delta Alpha Pi, a selective honor society that recognizes the academic achievements of students with disabilities.

Centenary University’s Disability Services Office, which is part of the Academic Success & Advising Center, works directly with students like Fernicola to arrange reasonable accommodations and support services that improve learning outcomes. At Centenary, about 17 percent of students are registered with the office, developing skills to succeed in the classroom and in life.

“Lauren is a vibrant part of the Centenary community, demonstrated by her commitment to academics and involvement in campus activities,” said Julie Gallup, the University’s assistant director of disability services. “She faced many challenging moments throughout her time at Centenary and could have given up, but she chose to persist.  I am confident that Lauren will be an outstanding teacher. She is compassionate, enthusiastic, and determined to create an inclusive learning environment for her students.”

Today, Fernicola is applying to school districts for teaching positions. She’s also thinking about enrolling for another degree in music education, which would combine her passions for teaching and music.

‘I’m very thankful for the support I received at Centenary. Everyone I worked with along my journey was very, very supportive and has truly gone above and beyond for me over the past four years,” Fernicola said.

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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