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By Desiree Datil
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – For almost 20 years Denise McKinsey, a nontraditional student at Camden County College and mother of two daughters, worked as an administrative assistant to many big-name companies before deciding that she will return to school to pursue her degree in marketing.

Student Denise McKinsey sits in Media Literacy class. By Desiree Datil, CCC Journalism Program

McKinsey’s path has been anything but ordinary. A Philadelphia native, McKinsey grew up in the Abbottsford Projects and attended Masterman School before being awarded a full scholarship to Milton Academy, a private boarding school in Massachusetts. McKinsey enlisted in the Navy upon graduation with the plan to attend college later. Like many people come to realize, life often does not go as planned and McKinsey entered the workforce, where she was employed as an administrative assistant to companies such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Lockheed Martin, and The Work Group/ New Jersey Youth Corps.

McKinsey is an example of a modern day “Jacqueline of all trades” as her experience extends beyond the conventional 9 to 5 and includes working as a minister, a teacher, and a humanitarian aid worker in Nairobi, Kenya. She describes being a minister as a “calling,” and teaching is her passion. However, her mission trips to Nairobi proved to be most influential. Despite the eminent danger, McKinsey continues to return. She describes her mission trips as “destiny … purpose … fulfillment … the most selfless thing I have done in my life.”

McKinsey is an inspiration to all whom she encounters. Lauren Smith, who shares a class with McKinsey, describes her as “a wonderful person. She’s easy to talk to and have a conversation with. I respect her views on life. She is such a smart woman. I admire her.”

The journey to becoming the woman she is was not always easy. During her childhood and early adulthood, many of her aunts, uncles, her mother, and her grandmother died of various forms of cancer. Her 17-year-old daughter died of an epileptic seizure just one week before her 18th birthday. Yet despite her losses, McKinsey continues to persevere. She can only do this, she claims, “by moving forward, helping others, and by refusing to let my past experiences cause me to be fearful or bitter. Love is stronger than any adversity and forgiveness cleanses the soul.”

In the face of adversity, she refuses to acquiesce and continues to plow forth to conquer her goal of “touching the lives of others with love and compassion.” Despite all that she has accomplished and experienced, McKinsey remains humble. Reflecting on her life, she proclaims, “Wow, I have been blessed.”

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