By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
ATLANTIC CITY — The decision to attend college was a difficult one for Atlantic Cape Community College’s Victor Moreno, but looking back on it now, the choice he made could not have worked out better.
Moreno, 32, and his family immigrated to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico when he was 7 and his single mother raised a family of six while working as a housekeeper in Atlantic City’s bustling hospitality industry. The youngest of his siblings, Moreno was an overachiever in high school, where he graduated in 2007, but was all too aware of the financial burden of attending college.
“I knew that higher education was going to be a key to my success, as an immigrant and being the first one from my family to have the opportunity to go to college, I could not let them down,” said Moreno, who today serves as manager of community outreach at Atlantic Cape.
The Path Less Traveled
“Coming from a single-parent home, and not having the financial resources to attend a four-year institution, my only option was to stay close to home. Luckily for me, my mother reminded me of the value of taking a unique path, an alternative route, a path less traveled,” he added.
That “path less traveled” has led Moreno to a career in education, becoming a bona fide community leader in South Jersey and one of the Latino community’s chief advocates for higher education.
Moreno told Front Runner New Jersey/La Prensa his job is the “perfect match” not only for his skill set, but for his desire to achieve.
“This is something that I love doing and I am very much passionate about,” Moreno said. “This position is the continuation of the work that I was already doing out in the community as a community leader and advocate. I get to continue to support my community through different programs and activities that truly create an impact in the lives of others.
Passionate About Education, Community
“I have the ability in this role to truly be myself, get creative and continue my passion of supporting my community. I am very thankful to have the support of my current dean [Atlantic Cape Dean of Students Paula Davis] and the entire college as we continue to work towards supporting the needs of not only our current students, but our surrounding communities in which we serve, which to me is the best part of the job.”
Moreno credited Davis as a mentor who believed in him and “placed trust in me, in every role and responsibility I took on during my time in Student Services.”
“I am tasked with creating and continuing to have meaningful partnerships on behalf of Atlantic Cape, with a special focus within the Atlantic City community, for the betterment of the community in which we serve,” Moreno said.
“I am permanently stationed at our Worthington Atlantic City Campus, and work under the leadership of Dr. Natalie Devonish, dean of the Worthington Atlantic City Campus and workforce development. I work on identifying, creating, fostering, sustaining and establishing relationships with organizations whose constituents may benefit from programs and services offered at Atlantic Cape Community College.”
Latin American Community
Moreno has made community involvement his passion and mission. He is a board member with the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County, where he gets to advocate for the local Latin American community. He has participated in numerous community service projects, including the Latino town hall meeting in Atlantic City where he translated live for Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver.
He recently helped the Hispanic Association coordinate free COVID-19 testing in Atlantic City with the New Jersey Health Department along with several walk-up food distributions and helped the organization receive an $80,000 grant to host several food distributions to provide immediate relief to struggling working class families in Atlantic City.
He also sits on the AtlantiCare’s planning committee of Atlantic City’s Midtown revitalization plans and LatinoXRadio. In 2019, Moreno was director of the Atlantic City Latino Festival held on Bader Field in Atlantic City, coordinating all the logistics.
“HAAC is filled with numerous Latino community leaders with diverse backgrounds, educations and experiences,” Moreno said. “It’s great to see the impact we can have, when we all work together for the betterment of our community.”
Through all of his hard work that has led him to working with some of the top and most influential leaders in Atlantic County and the state, Moreno said it’s his family that continued to inspire and motivate him.
“Both of my parents are deceased and my brothers and sisters have always stepped up to the plate and made sure I was always taken care off as the youngest child,” Moreno said. “As a family, we have overcome several obstacles, some very difficult ones, and others not so much. However, our resilience and our willingness to always support those in need is truly an inspiration.
“A special shout-out to my oldest brother Mr. Nefaki Moreno, who had to let his educational dreams [fall] behind to support his youngest brothers and sisters. He immigrated to the United States at the young age of 15. He dropped out of high school, leaving behind all his aspirations in order to help our mother provide for us.
“It is because of him that we found our way here in the United States. He is also the president of Organizacion Azteca, a local Mexican cultural nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve our rich cultural heritage abroad. His community work deeply inspired not only his children, but myself, to be community advocates, especially for our Mexican and Latino community,” Moreno said.
Moreno said education has been his “savior” and sees himself always advocating, volunteering and supporting others in need and for education. He plans to continue his education as well with possibly a master’s or doctorate.
It would be a natural continuation for a man who has followed his mother’s advice to take the path less traveled.
The Rest of the Story
Moreno covered several other subjects with Front Runner LaPrensa.
FRNJ: Tell us about your family. Is there anything you would like to share?
Victor Moreno: My family and I immigrated to the United States with the hope for a better life and future, and stumbled upon the Atlantic City area. I am the youngest of six children, a first generation college student, and the first from my family to earn a college degree. We grew up very poor in Mexico, filled with domestic violence, and after the death of my father, my two oldest brothers along with our mother decided to immigrate to United States in order to provide for our family. I attended elementary and middle school at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex. Without knowing the language, I had to learn fast, and quickly adapted to our new home and way of life in this country. I graduated from Atlantic City High School in 2007, and enrolled at Atlantic Cape Community in that fall semester. Little did I know that this decision was going to impact the rest of my professional and personal life.
FRNJ: I see where you rose in the ranks at Atlantic Cape from an office assistant in 2016 to your current position. Can you tell me about that rise and being in Atlantic Cape over that time?
Victor Moreno: Over the last 10 years of service at Atlantic Cape, I have progressed from a student worker to several support services roles at Atlantic Cape, in the Student Support Services area. I previously worked as a college recruiter in the Admissions department, coordinator for the New Jersey STARS scholarship program, office coordinator for the Educational Opportunity Fund Program, and as a specialist for the Center for Accessibility, supporting students with disabilities. During this time, I have gained considerable experience within diverse roles and responsibilities, which has helped to shape my future in higher education. I am so grateful to Atlantic Cape for giving me the opportunity to support and help carry their mission. I am thankful to my mentor Paula Davis, current Dean of Students for always believing in me. It has been exciting and rewarding to be at Atlantic Cape all this time, especially in recent years. I have been a part of, and have seen, a lot of good changes at the college throughout my time. Always striving and continuing to provide quality and affordable postsecondary education.
FRNJ: How did you feel about becoming Atlantic Cape’s community outreach manager?
Victor Moreno: When this position was first opened, and I read the job description, I got very excited. It was a perfect match. We have not had a Community Outreach position in the college for several years. Dr. Barbara Gaba, College President, always talks about “putting people in the right seats,” and that is exactly what this current position is for me. So, to know that Atlantic Cape’s initiative to continue reaching out to our community was a priority, I knew it was something I needed to be a part of.
FRNJ: Tell me more about your community involvement.
Victor Moreno: In the summer of 2019, I acted as the director of the AC Latino Festival held on Bader Field in Atlantic City, where I coordinated all the logistics for this flagship Latino community event through the Hispanic Association, in partnership with the Atlantic City’s Project Initiatives office. This event was sponsored by the Mayor’s Office and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDS). With over 7,000 folks in attendance, this free festival for the community, purpose is to provide an arena for the Latino community to come together to celebrate its rich heritage represented throughout 20 countries. Featured highlights of the festival included:
- Exhibitors – Educational organizations, social and health agencies, career opportunities, voter registration and services from government and business.
- Entertainment – Ballet, folkloric, a variety of other dances, live bands and performers representing Latin America, such as Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Peru and Puerto Rico.
- Latino Arts and Crafts – Hand crafted jewelry and traditional items and cultural exhibits
- Children Activities- Face painting, police ID & fingerprinting, etc.
- Latino Foods Vendors- Rich Latin food & refreshments from all over Latin America.
Most recently, I co-created a non-profit organization named “Cultura Unida”: an organization dedicated to mobilizing the Latino vote in Atlantic County and throughout the state. Our mission is to educate, empower and transform the Latino community by playing an active role in the democratic process.
FRNJ: FRNJ works to present role models to the community. How seriously do you take your role as a role model? Why?
Victor Moreno: I take my role as role model very seriously. Although I am far from perfect, I understand that at times I am in situations where I may inspire others. I don’t let that get to my head. I continue to remain grounded, always humble, and will always be that young tenacious child. Every day I strive to be a better version of myself, for me and for those around me.
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