2018 Camden County Freedom Medal winner shares her story

By holding her family, God and her community as the foundation for everything Muqaddas Ejaz does, her story has inspired others to live with the same compassion and care she possesses.

Life is a delicate, finite and uncertain gift, leaving the average person wondering how their time on earth has influenced their community. Camden County residents have already answered that question for Muqaddas Ejaz, solidifying their views by nominating her for the 2018 Camden County Freedom Medal, which she was awarded last Wednesday.

Ejaz is heavily involved with her community as a member of the Cherry Hill Democratic Committee, a sergeant at the Camden County College Public Safety Department and co-leader of the Southern New Jersey chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom since September 2016. She was recognized by Rep. Donald Norcross as a Woman of Honor in Education in May, among many other accomplishments.

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By holding her family, God and her community as the foundation for everything she does, her story has inspired others to live with the same compassion and care she possesses. Although her involvement with her community has been recognized, it is important to note where it all began — the capital city of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Lahore, where Ejaz was born.

Growing up in Pakistan with her mother and siblings, Ejaz’s father would be gone for four months at a time attending to his marble export and import business in the U.S. After waiting years to get approved for a U.S. visa, Ejaz was finally able to come to the states to be closer with her father.

“That was a whole excitement, now we can live as a family together,” Ejaz said.

Recalling the exact date, Dec. 28, 2002, Ejaz arrived in the U.S. As a 17-year-old, Ejaz and her family made the move to Atlanta where her father also owned a pizza business. Ejaz attended high school in Atlanta for her senior year and moved to Houston shorty after graduating to work as an insurance agent where she discovered she has a passion for understanding other cultures and customs.

“People don’t learn about other people, the reality of it, you know? Whether it’s a Spanish community, a Pakistani community, Indian community or whether it’s a Vietnamese community, every community has issues within the communities and then there are sub-issues, and there are subcultures and all these traditions,” Ejaz explained.

It is important to be able to understand these issues and learn about other cultures to make a difference in the community, according to Ejaz.

Ejaz moved to Bellmawr to be closer to her family and father’s scrap yard business where she would face one of the largest “opportunities” of her life. From 2008 through 2010, the family felt the effects of the recession and eventually moved to a two-bedroom apartment in Stratford.

All six members of her family crowded in a small apartment, but that didn’t stop her from accomplishing big things.

During this time, Ejaz worked two jobs to pay her way through school and help support her family, working at Dunkin’ Donuts and the advisement office at Camden County College, where she attended school. Ejaz eventually graduated with an associate’s degree in political science. During her time there, she was awarded a certificate of “most promising student of the year” from the politics, philosophy and history department. Ejaz ultimately went to Rowan University where she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in history and concentration in international studies.

Steve Hetherington, director of the public safety department at Camden County College, has seen firsthand her work ethic through the years.

“To talk about Mookie (her nickname), doesn’t make for a short conversation,’’ Hetherington said. “Her work ethic is phenomenal … she has a positive effect on every organization she works with and everyone she meets, just a living, breathing, walking ambassador of positivity.’’

Leading by example, Ejaz hopes to inspire her daughter, Anaya, by continuing to help others and create change in her community. Ejaz still visits the same Dunkin’ Donuts she worked at while attending school and other establishments throughout South Jersey to get to know other immigrants living in the U.S.

“When I take my last breath, I want God to be happy with me,” Ejaz said. “If I want to see a change, I have to be the change.”

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