Robert “Bobby” Kopac, of Edison, and Rebecca “Becky” Charles-Estain, of Iselin, are the first recipients of The Achievement Scholarship at Raritan Valley Community College.
The $500 scholarship is the first ever awarded to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities enrolled in The Achievement Center (TAC) at RVCC’s Branchburg campus.
A unique collaboration between RVCC and The Arc of Somerset County, The Achievement Center provides a certificate-based, post-secondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program enables students to continue academic study, experience college life, and gain important skills for entering the workforce.
“We’re excited by the first-ever scholarships for students in The Achievement Center at RVCC,” said Chris Corvino, executive director for The Arc of Somerset County. “Our students are certainly worthy of the distinction, and our first two recipients cannot be more appreciative or more honored. We are most proud of their efforts and grateful to our partners at RVCC.”
“The Achievement Center at RVCC is an inspiring example of access and equity,” said Michael J. McDonough, Ph.D., president of Raritan Valley Community College. “It provides a transformational opportunity for all students to discover their potential and to enrich our campus.
“Offering these scholarships for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities removes a barrier and underscores the College’s unwavering commitment to equity, to open access, and to unlimited opportunity,” McDonough added.
The Achievement Scholarship was created and crowd-funded with donations from the RVCC community raised at last December’s holiday party, and then matched by the RVCC Foundation and RVCC President McDonough. The scholarship recipients are chosen by the performance of each student, both inside and outside the classroom.
“We’re honored by the inclusiveness represented in this new scholarship and by this year’s recipients,” said Mike Marion, executive director, RVCC Foundation. “It’s a beautiful thing to witness the generosity of the RVCC community and its commitment to making all of our students feel seen, valued, celebrated, and saluted for the success they’ve achieved.”
Kopac, a graduate of Edison High School, was admitted to The Achievement Center in fall 2019 and completed the program in June 2022. He is one of the first students to graduate from the Center in three years. Bobby also has learned to travel independently using the bus and other forms of transportation. He is a member of TAC Alumni Committee and is the committee’s secretary. This semester, he took his first RVCC class, Introduction to Weight Training.
Charles-Estain, a graduate of the RISE Program at Woodbridge High School, was admitted to The Achievement Center in fall 2020 and completed the program in June 2023. She is also a member of TAC Alumni Committee and has learned to travel independently using Uber/Lyft. This semester, she took her first RVCC class, Interpersonal Communication, and she plans to take two RVCC classes in the spring 2024 semester.
The Achievement Center originated approximately seven years ago, starting with two students and two classes. Today, TAC has 130 students and offers 40 classes. Since the program’s inception, 25 students have graduated from the center and this June, 12 students — the largest graduating class — are expected to complete their studies. In addition, seven TAC students have gone on to graduate with degrees or certifications from Raritan Valley Community College.
Last year, RVCC received a $100,000 Signature Grant—The Achievement Center’s largest gift—from The Provident Bank Foundation to expand STEM-related curriculum at the Center.
Photo Caption: Rebecca “Becky” Charles-Estain, of Iselin, and Robert “Bobby” Kopac, of Edison, are the first recipients of “The Achievement Scholarship” at Raritan Valley Community College. – Photo courtesy of RVCC.