May 31, 2024
New onsite college courses at Ideal Institute of Technology in Pleasantville, NJ, open the door for students facing societal challenges to earn a salary and a bachelor’s degree from Centenary.

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, May 31, 2024 — Taryn Thompson’s journey to college has been anything but traditional. Losing his parents at age 5 started a downward spiral that led to a life on the streets, and eventually, incarceration. “Opportunities for me were real limited,” said Thompson, who became a father at just 15. “The streets were the only opportunity my community provided for me.”

This fall, the Pleasantville, NJ, resident will begin his undergraduate studies at Centenary University through a new work-based college program offered through a partnership between the northwestern New Jersey university and Ideal Institute of Technology, which provides vocational training and a salary to students seeking career opportunities. Thompson shared his story at an inaugural luncheon on May 22 marking the opening of Centenary University at Ideal, which brings Centenary University classes onsite at Ideal Institute’s Pleasantville location. The partnership offers a clear pathway for vocational students like Thompson to continue their education and earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, with a concentration in radio and television or film studies; Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity; Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Accounting; or Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

One of the first graduates of Ideal Institute, Thompson used his vocational training to begin building a career, first in carpentry and construction, and later as co-owner of a food truck business and as an Ideal Institute impact liaison providing guidance to current students: “Without Ideal, I honestly don’t even know where I would be. Now, I’m showing people that their second chance is right in front of them.”

Centenary University President Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., said the University’s partnership with Ideal Institute represents a shift in higher education, with a broader emphasis on providing transformational educational programs beyond those serving traditional college-age students. Dr. Caldwell noted that often, people facing challenges such as poverty, homelessness, and pervasive crime lack clear channels and financial resources to consider higher education. “As a society, we need to think about the privileges we have and sharing those privileges with others,” he said. “Colleges and universities need to adapt their programs to a broader educational audience. At Centenary, we’ve launched an ‘Innovative Education for Everyone’ approach. Many Centenary students didn’t think they could go to college. They’re working two, and sometimes three, jobs. Yet when they graduate, they’re superstars.”

This year, Centenary launched Centenary Now: The Campaign for College & Opportunity for Everyone, an $8 million capital campaign to provide affordable educational opportunities for all students, whether they are traditional day session students, working adults, or those facing societal obstacles to earning a college degree. Within that context, the University this year has introduced a new Working Degree Program providing discounted tuition to working adults; launched the Centenary University Human Performance Center with a series of short-course, non-credit learning programs to foster intellectual growth, emotional competence, and career success for high school and college students, athletes, coaches, parents, veterans, and career professionals; and awarded new scholarships to first-generation and economically-challenged students.

The University’s emphasis on boosting opportunity for first-gen and non-traditional students dovetails with the mission of Ideal Institute, said founder Ren Parikh. Noting that Ideal Institute has referred 20 students to Centenary so far, Parikh said, “I strongly believe that if we make college affordable, accessible, and achievable, then college can be for everybody. We as a society shouldn’t take that option away. At Ideal, we have made a social impact through education, employment, and entrepreneurship. We were missing that piece to provide a clear pathway to college. This partnership with Centenary University extends the learning journey of our students.”

For his part, Thompson is looking forward to starting his college classes while continuing to work and is now encouraging his son to enroll in the program: “I want my son to go on this journey with me. My dream is for us to graduate from Centenary University together.”

For more information about enrolling at Centenary University at Ideal Institute, click here.

Dr. Dale Caldwell speaking at the opening


Centenary University offers extraordinary learning opportunities that empower students to develop intellectually, emotionally, and interculturally—keys to career and personal success. Under the leadership of President Dale Caldwell, Ed.D., the University aspires to advance its reputation as a world class institution offering innovative programs, including the world’s first Master of Arts in Happiness Studies, to lift the future for our students and local communities.


Ideal Institute of Technology is a career college in Atlantic County, New Jersey, that offers work-based career training and technical skills training for students that are looking for better and more challenging careers in the technical industry. Ideal aims to help people become successful by providing excellent technical and vocational training. Ideal Institute of Technology’s main campus is located at 1000 W. Washington Ave., Pleasantville, NJ 08232 . For more information please visit:


Kristen Volkland
Erbach Communications Group
(201) 960-3102

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