Nine students from Early College Program received their Associates Degrees
By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – Passaic County Community College (PCCC) hosted their 50th commencement ceremony on Monday. Graduates from PCCC’s four campuses, Paterson, Passaic, Wanaque and Wayne, received their Associate in Arts, Science and Applied Science degrees or their professional certificates at the celebration.
“It’s amazing that having made it for 50 years, that we could actually have some ‘firsts’ tonight,” Steven Rose, President of PCCC said. “We’ve got a couple of really important first things that happened tonight.”
Some of those “firsts” included:
- A performance of the Star Spangled Banner on the violin by Professor Nadya Kourani
- The Class of 2022 being the first class since 1918 who have gone through a pandemic
- 676 students received 791 degrees and certifications at the ceremony
- Elizabeth Severino, who graduated with an Associates in Liberal Arts Early Childhood Education with a 3.8 GPA, gave birth to her baby last week, and unfortunately, could not make the ceremony in-person
- Two graduates were the first to receive the college’s newest Associates of Fine Arts degree
- Nine students got their Associates Degree a week and a half before their high school diploma due to the Early College Program, a partnership between PCCC and high schools where high school juniors or seniors have the opportunity to earn college credits while they are still enrolled in high school
“What an accomplishment,” Rose said. “This is a big night of ‘firsts’, but tonight is your night. I want to congratulate all of you. It’s a big deal you got here tonight. What a journey some people had to get here. But it’s great that you’re here. In the program we put a theme and it says ‘Where Success Starts’ and if you drive throughout Passaic County you’ll see on buses and billboards it says ‘Where Success Starts’. You probably saw that a couple of years ago when you were thinking about going to college, but the theme is probably just as important tonight because this is where your success started. If you can make it in the past two years with what they threw at us, the next part is going to be easier. We [the staff and administration] are incredibly proud of all of you. Do great things.”
“Class of 2022 I have learned that what is inside of you is more important than anything that you encounter outside of you,” Senator Cory Booker, who was at the ceremony virtually, said. “I’ve learned that if you see no magic or encounter no angels it’s because you’ve harbored none. Be one of those people that shows up with eyes of hope and wonder, be one of those people that shows up and sees the possibility and sees the promise. Be one of those people who brings a spirit that is humble of heart, that recognizes the dignity and divinity of others, and does what you can to add to the potential to add to the promise of the future. I hope you will bring that heart and that spirit to everything that you do because the world is wide open for you right now. It needs the best of you. I wish you all the best Class of 2022. I can’t wait to witness the contributions that you will make.”
Of those nine students who participated in the Early College Program, Daniela Velasquez was not only the Valedictorian of Preparatory Academy High School in Passaic, but of the PCCC Class of 2022 with a 3.99 GPA. Velasquez received her Associates in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts Humanities and will continue her college education at Columbia University pursing a double major in psychology and film and media studies.
“Today we not only celebrate your accomplishments, but those around you who have wholeheartedly rooted for you these past few years,” Velasquez said. “For most of us, our first year as a college student consisted of online classes and Zoom meetings. However, we persevered. We did what we had to do to be here today. Whether you have decided to continue your education at another institution, commence an internship, build a business or take a different path that you feel best is for you, I cannot emphasize enough how proud others are and how important it is that you are proud of yourself. There’s one thing I would like us to take away from this experience: we are in control of our own narratives.”
Mayor Andre Sayegh commended the Class on their resilience and encouraged them to stay resilient wherever they go next.
“I thought back to what you had to experience for the last few years,” Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “You’re the class that had to wear the masks, you’re the class that had to get your temperatures taken, you’re the class that had to be six feet apart. So any way, anywhere you go in your lives, if you take another test, you passed the most important one. You have proven to the world that you are not only resilient, but you’re brilliant as well.”
As of May 26, the majority of the graduating class represented 36 countries including:
- United States
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Trinidad and Tobago