Updated: May 24, 2019
Annually, Passaic County Community College holds a commencement that brings thousands of students into the threshold of further education and career aspirations. On May 23rd, PCCC held their 47th commencement that would graduate their largest group of students (1,088) and awarded 1,369 degrees and certificates.
This year, The college congratulated 3 valedictorians. One of the three would be Henry Cenicola, 72, Culinary Arts Major. Cenicola decided to attend PCCC after losing his job of 26 years. “My job ended prematurely after 26 years. After it ended, I was old enough to retire but I wasn’t ready to do that. My sister knew that I was good at cooking and baking and recommended cooking school. I looked at PCCC and it was great,”Cenicola said.
Cenicola has left a legacy at PCCC that will inspire everyone at any age to achieve their dreams. Even with the excitement of graduation, Cenicola shared he felt melancholy. “It’s bittersweet. I made a family here at PCCC and friends. It was amazing. I wouldn’t trade it.”
Cenicola plans to dive head first into the culinary field. “I wouldn’t want to be a cook in a kitchen, I would want to work in a bakery or in catering,” Cenicola explained.
Wara W. Laura, Computer Science Major, came to the United States from Bolivia six years ago. Laura would come into the country not understanding English and having to wait a year until she could begin her schooling. In just seven years of being in PCCC, Laura learned five different languages. English and four different computer programming languages. Laura’s dream is go to work in artificial intelligence. The audience learned that Laura’s mother traveled from Bolivia to see her daughter graduate. Laura’s speech was touching and touched upon immigration issues within the country.
Carolyn Lindner, Psychology Major, was the last valedictorian to speak at the ceremony. Lindner had originally planned to attend Rowan University. Lindner had moved into her dorm at the university and moved out the next day. Lindner found a home at PCCC as a psychology major after taking a semester off and will continue her studies at Caldwell University to become a Neuropsychologist.
The event was filled with inspiring and encouraging words from supporters. Harvey J. Nutter, Board of Trustees Chairman spoke to the graduating class about the spirit of ambition. Nutter reminded the graduates that despite their obstacles they didn’t quit and ordered them to stand and face the crowd to show everyone what hard work looked like.
John W. Bartlett, Freeholder Director, also spoke to the class and gave them back pocket worthy advice. “Never stop networking because you never know who you could connect with. The next person you could connect with may be sitting right next to you. They could be your favorite professor or your least favorite professor,” Bartlett advised.
During his opening remark speech, President Steven M. Rose Ed.D., shed light on the ground breaking statistics that represented the graduating class. 63% of the graduating class was female.
Graduating Class Statistics
48 students from Dominican Republic
42 students from Peru
17 students from Mexico
13 students from Bangladesh
13 students from Columbia
12 students from Jamaica
364 students from Paterson
189 students from Clifton
156 students from Passaic
54 students from Wayne
The culturally diverse class further explains how education can bring together many people from different walks of life.
As the graduating class walked in, many were trying to read the multitude of messages on that the graduates had on their caps. Many caps had messages representing their culture, struggles and major. One graduate in particular had decorated her cap with her children and herself, whereas another wrote the saying “si se puede” which translates to “yes you can.”
The college is proud of the class of 2019, as their GPA cumulatively was a 3.36. PCCC continues to celebrate their 50th anniversary. In PCCC’s first year they only had 250 students enrolled now they have 13,000.