Meet the Pre-College Staff

Pre-College Programs Staff

nelson rodriguez headshot

Phone: 201-200-3362

Nelson has spent most of his life serving the multicultural communities of Northern New Jersey. He is a proud EOF alumnus and double alumnus of Montclair State (2005, BA in Psychology and 2016, MA in Educational Leadership). As a Graduate Student, Nelson was awarded the Student Leadership Award in Diversity and Equality. Recently, he completed the Executive Leadership Institute for College Opportunity Program Professionals at Cornell University. He has a demonstrated history of working in education administration and is skilled in Public Speaking, Nonprofit Management, Conflict Resolution and Team Building.

Currently, as the Director of the GEAR UP College Bound Program at New Jersey City University, Nelson works with a staff of educators, community leaders, college students and volunteers to provide educational enrichment, leadership development, cultural experiences, and community outreach initiatives that will strengthen and promote both personal and academic growth of the GEAR UP Scholars, who are all first-generation, college-bound, high school students.

Academically, Nelson is currently enrolled in the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education and is working towards a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Education, Culture and Society. Nelson Rodriguez strives every day to be a mentor/role model for the young people in his family and community at large and continues to work with others to create an environment that thrives on positivity and inclusiveness.

ivelisse cruz small headshot

Phone: 201-200-2196

Ivelisse Cruz was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is a proud first-generation graduate of New Jersey City University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Ivelisse hopes to further her educational goals by pursuing a Master’s in Educational Psychology in the Spring 2021.   

As an undergraduate student, she held prominent student leadership positions in various University Departments such as the Office of Campus of Life and the Children's Learning Center. In addition to being a full-time student and working in various campus departments, she also held the President position for the Federacion de Estudiante Latino Americanos (F.E.L.A.) student group on campus for two terms.

In 2015, upon graduation Ivelisse attained full-time employment as a Preschool Teacher at NJCU The Children’s Learning Center. A position she held for over 6 years. During this time, Ivelisse served as President on The Council on Hispanic Affairs for two academic years. It was also during this time that she found her passion for Higher Education and specifically for mentoring first generation and low-income students and providing them with the resources necessary to meet their educational goals.

Currently, as assistant director of the GEAR UP College Bound Program, Ivelisse hopes her personal college experience, student advocacy portfolio, and deep understanding of the challenges students face, will positively impact the scholars of our program. Her servicing strategy, enthusiasm and perseverance will demonstrate positivity, encouragement and motivation. She is dedicated and committed to the scholars and believes all things are possible when you believe in yourself.

cj diggs headshot

Phone: 201-200-3146

Charles, better known as CJ, was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. He participated in the GEAR UP College Bound Program throughout middle and high school. After high school, CJ earned his bachelor’s degree from NJCU (Bachelors in Media Arts & Communications). He is a proud alumnus of the University’s Opportunity Scholarship Program/EOF. As an undergraduate at NJCU, CJ served as Resident Assistant with the EOF summer program and as mentor with the GEAR UP College Bound Program. He also worked as an assistant football coach and substitute teacher within the Jersey City Public School District.

CJ began his career within in the entertainment industry while still in college, landing an internship in radio with HOT97. After a 10-year career within the Promotions and Marketing Dept with the radio station, CJ decided to take his talents to mainstream media with Viacom—now Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). He went on to play a crucial role in VH1 and MTV2’s day-to-day commercial operations, along with assisting on bigger productions like the MTV VMA Awards.

As Counselor for the GEAR UP College Bound Program, CJ reminds himself to put his best foot forward and constantly set examples for his son and the youth within the Jersey City neighborhood. CJ continues to thrive for more and maintain a positive attitude throughout the most challenging times. In addition to his work as GEAR UP College Bound Counselor, CJ is part of the Game Day Operations with the Brooklyn NETS and NJ Devils!