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Alysa Serrano Begins Authoring Her Success Story at RCSJ

Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) graduate Alysa Serrano is literally the picture of collegiate success. Her image is featured on marketing materials for RCSJ’s Division of Communication and Creative & Performing Arts; she has appeared in a soon-to-be-released promotional video for the college; served as a student ambassador at recruitment events; and is even featured on a billboard on Route 49.

“When that billboard went up, my mom went straight out there and took a bunch of pictures of it! She’s been bragging to all of her co-workers, like: Look at my daughter!” Serrano laughed.

Currently in her senior year at Rowan University, she stands only one semester away from becoming the first person in her family to earn their bachelor’s degree. As the finish line draws closer, she cannot help but marvel at what she has overcome to get here.

“My father passed away right before I entered high school,” Serrano shared. “My education sort of slipped from me when he passed. I stopped putting a lot of effort into my education … so I didn’t really see myself going to college.”

After the devastating loss, she moved from Berlin to Elmer with her mom and older brother, where she enrolled in Arthur P. Schalick High School. Serrano’s grades were fine, and her teachers were quite impressed with her abilities; but her enthusiasm for education was gone. Following her graduation in 2018, she decided to enter the workforce while she figured out her next step and took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Serrano performed well and quickly moved up to a shift leader position, but everyone in her life kept encouraging her to reconsider college. Her friends assured her it was never too late to start. Her mom and brother, who graduated from RCSJ with his associate degree in Criminal Justice, reminded her that she was smart, and capable, and would excel if she gave herself the chance. Even her co-workers encouraged her to embrace her gift for writing and get her degree.

“I thought it would be a shame to regret not taking the opportunity later. So, in September 2020, I decided I would try to earn my degree,” Serrano concluded. “My brother had a great experience [at RCSJ] . . . He’d talk to me all the time about how he loved it, so hearing that from him, obviously, I was going to look into the school.”

She enrolled as a student in RCSJ’s English program and began exploring and refining her long-held passion for the written word. Serrano threw herself into her classes and found that the more she collaborated with professors and fellow students, the more her confidence grew. When the opportunity presented itself to get involved with RCSJ’s student publications—The Vanguard, a literary and art magazine, and The Voice, a newspaper—she took it.

“It was a really fun experience. We all collaborated to figure out which pieces would be included and where they’d go, we edited all the writing to make sure it was good enough to be published, and we formatted everything like a publisher would do,” explained Serrano. “The interviews, especially, really took me out of my comfort zone and I got to experience something that I love to do, even if I am sometimes shy doing it.”

In 2023, one of her short stories was selected for inclusion in The Vanguard, reinvigorating her aspirations of becoming a professionally published author. Entitled “The NUMB,” it was inspired by Serrano’s love for the horror genre and the experience of losing her father at the age of 14, just like the story’s protagonist.

“The question [the story examines] is: Is it better to feel nothing or feel something during your time of grief. That’s what I wrote about, and I really like the way that the story came out,” she said.

As she was preparing to graduate with her associate degree, she received an e-mail about RCSJ’s new “3+1” Program option in applied professional communications, offered in collaboration with the college’s Flagship Partner, Rowan University. The program enables students to earn their bachelor’s degree in select majors for less than $30,000, completing their first three years of education at RCSJ and their final year at Rowan University.

“I knew I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree and I was already looking at transferring to Rowan University,” she explained. “I thought: Wow, this is so perfect, and it happened at the perfect time!”

So, after graduating with honors, she happily returned to RCSJ for a third year. When her professors were asked to recommend a student to represent the college, Serrano’s name was mentioned over and over. In addition to participating in photo and video shoots for marketing materials, she also served as a student representative at RCSJ’s Open House recruitment event.

“It’s very humbling,” she shared. “I feel like I have never been sure of myself; a lot of the time, I’m probably nervous. But I put a lot of effort into my writing, and I put a lot of effort into my academics . . . Being able to work hard and see that the result is my professors being proud of the work that I put out—it means the world.”

Serrano is continuing her academic success at Rowan University, where she is on-track to graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in applied professional communications. She is certain that her RCSJ education has left her well-prepared for the rigors of university life, and the 4.0 GPA she earned last semester seems to agree.

“I think I’m very different from when I first started going to Rowan College of South Jersey. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve really grown,” Serrano remarked. “I’ll have a bachelor’s degree soon and I do feel very prepared for entering the workforce. . .

“I just want to be able to write, whether I do it for a company or it’s my own personal writing; the dream is just being able to do something that I really love and that I think I’m good at.”

While Serrano has moved on to the next step, she also chose to maintain her connection to RCSJ. She continues to contribute to the college’s marketing campaign; in 2024 she had a story published in The Voice’s student publishing edition; and she even plans on applying for a communications and marketing internship at the school as soon as it opens.

And, although in a short six months, Serrano will have achieved her goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, her passion for learning glows brighter than ever.

“I’m thinking I might go back for a graduate degree, eventually . . . and I would definitely consider Rowan for that,” she said. “The community here has made me want to come back and be a part of it again.”

Become a part of the RCSJ and Rowan University community when you enroll in a Flagship partner program like 3+1 or Rowan Choice. Learn more at