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 October 29, 2012

Essex County College (ECC) President Edythe M. Abdullah and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. admire the 2012 Olympic Gold medal won by ECC graduate Demetrius Pinder during a recognition ceremony held at the county administration building October 25. Pinder won his medal competing in the 4x400 meter relay team for the Bahamas.

Newark-Based Community College Leads U.S. 2-year Colleges in Olympic Track Athletes

NEWARK, NJ— With 11 former and current students competing in the 2012 Olympics, Essex County College (ECC) had the most track athletes participating in the Summer Games in London than any community college in the country. On Thursday, October 25, 2012 the public, family and friends, had the opportunity to meet these alumni and celebrate their victories.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of these three Essex County College alumni,” said College President Edythe Abdullah during the festive Olympic Homecoming Celebration.  “Each of them, and our other 2012 Olympic athletes, received a world-class education at Essex County College, moved on to a 4-year college, and became the world’s best athletes.  They are truly role models for our current students and an inspiration for our potential students.”

Being recognized during a whirlwind two-day celebration were Demetrius Pinder (2012 Gold Medalist), who competed on the Bahamas national team; Kanika Beckles and Joel Redhead, who competed on Grenada’s national team; Enrique Llanos, who competed on Puerto Rico’s national team; and Moussa Dembele, who competed on Senegal’s national team.

“We have become world-class athletes, thanks to Coach Smart and Essex County College,” said Demetrius Pinder ’09, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist.  “They have made me the man I am today.  I am mentally focused and prepared for anything in life.”

At each event, the Olympians were recognized by Essex County College President Edythe M. Abdullah and other ECC officials. Essex County Freeholder Carol Clark presented a resolution from the Freeholders to each attendee. They also received resolutions from the City of Newark, as well as from representatives of their respective Consulates. 

Demetrius Pinder (Class of 2009) Gold Medalist for Bahamas’ winning 4x400 relay team;

Kanika Beckles (Class of 2011) competed in the women’s 400 meter dash for Grenada;

Joel Redhead (Class of 2007) competed in men’s 200 meter dash for Grenada;

Moussa Dembele (current student) competed in the men’s 110 meter hurdles for Senegal; and

Enrique Llanos (Class of 2002) ran in the men’s 110 meter hurdles for Puerto Rico.

Essex County College Olympians Moussa Dembele (110 meter hurdles for Senegal), Joel Redhead (200 meter dash for Grenada), Kanika Beckles (400 meter dash for Grenada), and Demetrius Pinder  (4x400 meter relay Gold medal for the Bahamas) get together during the Olympic Homecoming Celebration held October 25 at the College.

The Olympic alumni are currently attending a four-year college and/or training in Alabama, Texas, Florida or their home country. Alumni unable to attend the programs included: Kerron Stewart (2012 Silver Medalist), Novlene Williams-Mills (2012 Bronze Medalist), Melaine Walker (2008 Gold Medalist/Olympic record holder for the women’s 400 meter hurdles); Korine Hinds, Riker Hylton and Kenia Sinclair, who competed on Jamaica’s national team.

“It doesn’t surprise me to have 11 members of our Essex County family reach such a high degree of success,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo during the county’s salute to the Olympians on October 25. It is a testament to the nurturing and supportive environment at Essex County College that encourages students to excel.” 

 “Essex County College is fortunate to recruit many of the world’s best athletes, who are looking for an affordable and quality option to fulfill their education goals as well as their athletic goals,” said ECC Track Coach Michael Smart.  “As a coach, I have had the privilege of watching their continued progress over the years.  It is so fulfilling to stay connected with them since their graduation from Essex, to the Olympics in London.”

The athletes credited the ECC family and especially Coach Smart for their successes. “I had to adapt to pretty much everything when I arrived on campus,” said Beckles. The athletic training made me mentally stronger which made my transition to Texas A & M (where she is currently a student-athlete) that much easier.  Redhead evoked laughter during the ceremony when he said, “Coming to the United States was definitely hard for me. I was pretty much a momma’s boy and Coach Smart made me stronger.”

The OLYMPIC HOMECOMING CELEBRATION and several other campus-wide events were organized to recognize the achievements of these 10 alumni and one current student, and to inspire our current students with the Olympians’ stories of dedication and persistence in reaching for their dreams.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) reported that 57 of the 2012 Summer Olympic athletes currently or previously attended a two-year college.  With its count of 11 current and former students competing, Essex County College had the most athletes participating than any community college in the country. This is the second consecutive Summer Olympiad where ECC has had 11 athletes compete. The first athlete with an ECC connection competed in 1996.

Essex County College, an open access community college dedicated to academic excellence, serves the dynamic needs of diverse constituencies through comprehensive educational programs and services.  With its main Newark campus, West Essex campus in West Caldwell, and satellite centers throughout Essex County, ECC enrolls more than 13,000 students who are pursuing credit courses in academic disciplines while nearly 15,000 more are enrolled in ESL and adult literacy classes, short-term job training, and numerous programs for professional development and personal enrichment.

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