Photography by Martha Nestor, Journalism Major & Alexia C. Sottile, Biology Major
By: Alexia C. Sottile
After two years of watching graduates online from afar due to the Pandemic, Passaic County Community College was happy to get back to an in-person celebration on Monday, June 13, 2022 for its 50th annual commencement.
Guest speakers included Mayor Andre Sayegh of Paterson, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and a two-time Valedictorian Daniela Velasquez who also graduated from Passaic Preparatory Academy this year and will serve as valedictorian for her high school on June 23.
Senator Cory Booker expressed his pride in the resilience demonstrated by the graduating class leading to their achievement. Passaic County Community College President Dr. Steven Rose stated, “We have 676 students receiving 791 degrees and certificates tonight; that’s a great number, but, usually, that number’s a little higher…it has not been an easy couple of years…but what an accomplishment for you here this evening having hung in there and got through this, so congratulations.” Students applauded and wiped tears in recognition of their hard work and success. Passaic County Board of County Commissioners’ Director Bruce James seconded President Rose’s congratulations and advised the graduating class to advocate for future students to attend Passaic County Community College, stating it is the sole institution in the state of New Jersey to offer a wide variety of curriculums and programs in collaboration with other academic institutions, such as Ramapo College. James concluded his compelling declaration stating, “Education is the key to the survival of America, and it’s going to be your job to make sure America survives.” James reminded students of the importance of education and later emphasized the significance of loving and respecting our neighbor, almost paving the way for the next few speakers’ discussion on faith. Faculty, graduates, and their loved ones applauded and welcomed former commissioner of labor and current president of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges Dr. Aaron Fichtner. Dr. Fichtner took the stand and delivered a heart wrenching speech on faith:
“You all came here to Passaic County Community College; you took that first step; you didn’t know when you’d get here to this graduation; you didn’t know…how long it would take you, but you had the faith to take that first step, and I commend you for that. You persevered; you thrived despite being in an unprecedented global pandemic, an unsettled economy. You did all of that because you had faith…that if you took that first step, that you’d get here today, that you would make your lives better…"
Graduates’ family and friends gave a standing ovation to the graduates in honor of their resilience in overcoming a mélange of adversities in these unprecedented times.
Dr. Rose brought the audience’s attention to the 36 flags behind him taking pride in explaining their purpose; they serve as recognition and respect for the countries birthing the graduates before him. As students originating from different nations and ethnical backgrounds, they stand together in awe because it is in partnership with one another that their triumph was made possible.
Dr. Rose presented Calvary Baptist Church Reverend Dr. Randall Lassiter to address the benediction. Graduates, faculty, administration, and guests were invited to stand in the last official declaration of the ceremony. Graduates prayed together, regardless of their
personal religious affiliation and concluded in conjunction, “Amen.” As the ceremony concluded, graduates were escorted outdoors to mingle, and two graduates shared their advice to current and future students. After five years, Sara R. Salem proudly receives her associates degree in applied science and plans on jumping directly into her career. “Focus on your dream; don’t let anyone get you down,” Salem’22 smiles.
Sara R. Salem’22 proudly stands in the garden, just outside of the security office, holding her cap.
Receiving her career certificate and a certificate of achievement,
Destiny Rose Garcia plans on transferring
to a four-year academic institute to work on receiving her bachelor’s degree. She has achieved her certificates after three years and advises students “Go for it; it never hurts to try,” Garcia’22.
Destiny Rose Garcia’22 smiles amidst her fellow graduates after receiving her certificates.