Education

Elizabeth Resident Fast Forwards His College Career

9cf65339dba237f3c510_WEB_Ryan_Nealis_2.jpg
Union County College Class of ’15 graduate Ryan Nealis and Union’s Student Success Coordinator Tinny Cheung. Credits: Union County College
9cf65339dba237f3c510_WEB_Ryan_Nealis_2.jpg

CRANFORD, NJ – When it came to his college career, Ryan Nealis had a schedule and a goal, and he achieved both, completing his associate’s degree from Union County College in less than a year.

When the 33-year-old father of three from Elizabeth enrolled in Union County College during 2014, he came with a sense of urgency. “I’m not a kid. I have real-world experience. I went from living in a park to working for $90,000-plus a year at a bank. I wasn't happy, I was miserable actually. Without a college degree, I was unable to switch fields, unable to search for employment that would allow me to spend time with my three children and work in a field where my children are able to look up to me. I wanted to complete the associate degree in less than a year and then go right into a bachelor’s program.”

Besides the challenge of juggling college with his life responsibilities, Nealis had dropped out of school in 10th grade and would be venturing into a classroom for the first time in 16 years, but he knew a college degree could launch him into the career he’d always envisioned for himself—“I’ve always wanted to do something to help people.”

Sign Up for E-News

He passed his high-school equivalency on the first attempt and registered for three classes in Union’s second summer session and four more in the fall of 2014. Through the College’s Assessment Center, he was also able to take tests to earn 12 credits in the NJ State’s College Level Examination Program. As Coordinator of Student Success Tinny Cheung says, “When a student comes to us with a plan like Ryan’s—to complete his degree in a year—then it’s our job to do everything we can to help him succeed in achieving his goal.”

With Summer-term and Fall-semester success under his belt, Nealis was ready to make a big move in the spring of 2015. The College approved his request to take a whopping 22 credits (seven classes) during the 15-week semester. 

All of the classes were in a classroom—not online. “I actually bumped up my (grade point average) that semester,” Nealis recalls. “Of course, what complicated things was having to schlep to classes while being on crutches for three months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, and carrying around a 60-pound bag of books.”

Nealis completed his associate degree by taking three “killer” courses during the first summer term of 2015 (Statistics, Government, and Anatomy & Physiology). He earned 66 credits and an associate degree in Criminal Justice. His final grade-point average was a stellar 3.5, which would qualify him for entry in the national honor society.

Nealis plans to attend Commencement and receive his degree from President McMenamin during the winter ceremony, which will take place on Jan. 14 at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway. A week after that, Ryan expects to begin taking classes for his bachelor’s degree Kean University. “I’d like to finish in no more than three semesters,” he says.

Nealis’s future plans may include service for Homeland Security, the Fire Department, Law Enforcement or Corrections. “I want to be in a career where I can make a difference in people’s lives,” he says.

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Elizabeth

National Weather Service Issues Heat Advisory Through 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17

July 16, 2018

NEW YORK, NY, - The National Weather Service issued a 'Heat Advisory' this morning for Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union and Hudson Counties in New Jersey. The heat advisory will remain in effect from noon Monday July 16 until 6 p.m. Tuesday July 17.

Extreme heat can cause illness and death among at- risk population who cannot stay cool. The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during ...

Roselle Man Charged with Multiple Counts of Animal Cruelty After Search Finds Over 40 Dogs Living in Squalor

July 11, 2018

ROSELLE, NJ - Charges have been filed on the Roselle man found with more than 40 dogs living in severely unsanitary and inhumane living conditions in his home last month said acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan.

Authorities say, Evelio J. Calderon, 40, is charged with than 30 criminal offenses that include two 3rd-degree animal cruelty offenses, 14 counts of 4th-degree animal ...

Cranford Jaycees Annual Golf Outing Raises Money For Community

July 18, 2018

CRANFORD - The Township of Cranford Junior Chamber of Commerce (“Jaycees”) held their 12th Annual Golf Outing on Friday, June 22, 2018, at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth. The outing raised $8,000.00 which will benefit two worthy community organizations, the Cranford Baseball and Softball League Inc. and the Union County Educational Services Commission ...

"Tired of cronyism? Yeah, us too!"

July 19, 2018

The Union County Freeholders’ decision to appoint State Senator and newly-elected Union County Democratic Chairman, Nick Scutari’s chief of staff, Ed Oatman as County Manager smelled of corruption from the start. To place a political consultant like Oatman in the role of overseeing 2,800 employees and running the day-to-day operations of the $500 million county budget suggests ...

Step Up and Build a Stronger Union County

July 20, 2018

Union County residents who are seeking a meaningful, high-impact way to volunteer in their community can sign up as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties.

The organization is currently seeking volunteer mentors for its best-known program, Community Based Mentoring. The program involves individual mentoring with a local child or teen, age 6 to 18, with a ...