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Zusette Dato Named Alumna of the Year

Zusette Dato was presented with the Middlesex County College Alumna of the Year Award at a ceremony May 12 at the College. She was honored for her professional and volunteer work.

It took Ms. Dato 11 years to get her degree at Middlesex County College in 2004 – 11 years of juggling a full-time job, two kids, volunteer responsibilities, plus evening classes.

It wasn't easy, but she was determined.

After graduating from Woodbridge High School in 1966, she went to work for area attorneys as a legal secretary. She didn't think that college was in her future – and for 25 years, in wasn't. But she began to regret that decision.

Ms. Dato started in the Paralegal Program at Middlesex in 1991 and attended evening classes. She also volunteered in the community – working with the Domestic Violence Response Team in North Brunswick, the North Brunswick Parks and Recreation Committee, and the North Brunswick Open Space Committee, the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, the South Amboy Planning Board and the South Amboy Library Board.

"The work was very rewarding," she says.

Ms. Dato now works with her husband, Robert Dato, a Woodbridge attorney as a paralegal/office manager. She is also an aide to Freeholder Director Stephen "Pete" Dalina. She has two sons, Christopher and Craig Casale.

Vice President Ronald Goldfarb, who was one of Ms. Dato's teachers in the Paralegal Program, calls her "an excellent student."

"She was a pleasure to have in class," he said. "She worked hard and was very talented." So much so that she was inducted into the Paralegal Honor Society and graduated with highest honors.

Ms. Dato, in turn, lauded the support she got from her professors, including Dr. Goldfarb.

"He would help me choose my upcoming classes and confirmed I was on the right track. I could count on Dr. Goldfarb for a few words of encouragement. That was incredibly helpful. For those of you here who are educators, never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed to a student.

"In recent times, I've returned here to take public speaking and Spanish. I've also had the good fortune to have been selected as aide to Freeholder Stephen "Pete" Dalina. It's been my privilege to serve as his aide and this too has been a learning experience. For those here who are alumni and for the rest of us too, the most helpful thing you can do is simply talk up this fine school as I do. Let others know what a well-rounded education MCC offers. Spread your enthusiasm for MCC to others."