Boro Prez Marshall praises York College grads

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Citing their education in the most ethnically diverse county in the country, Borough President Helen Marshall praised the more than 800 graduates at York College’s Commencement Ceremony Friday morning.

As both students and residents of Queens, the graduates have gotten a bonus lesson in diversity outside the classroom, Marshall said.

“We see these graduates as many shining examples,” Marshall said. “You have developed an international understanding of one another, which is a rare jewel.”

Marshall, who gave the keynote speech at the Friday morning ceremony on the college campus at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica, advised students to use what they had learned at the city university to improve the city.

“The world awaits you, graduates,” she said. “You are needed to make this an even better place.”

More than 1,500 family members and friends crowded under and around the tent to cheer on their graduates, battling a blazing sun and early summer temperatures. Bottled water was distributed with the commencement programs to help stave off the heat and dehydration.

The morning was a celebration of the graduates’ achievements and struggles, said Allan Dobrin, senior vice chancellor for the City University of New York, the school system to which York College belongs.

“As a CUNY student, I know you’ve spent years balancing the demands of school, work, and family,” he said.

York’s valedictorian, Avril Maloney, a social work major and South Ozone Park resident, said the graduation ceremony made the efforts worthwhile.

“We have overcome many obstacles to reach this occasion,” Maloney said. “Being here today is a great reward for overcoming them.”

Raising enthusiastic applause, Dr. Charles Kidd, president of the college, made sure to thank the parents, faculty and staff who helped the students complete their studies.

“We are the support system that helped the graduates earn the baccalaureate degrees they will receive,” he said.

Kidd, who has been York’s president for the last six years, will be leaving the college at the end of the month.

The ceremony for the class of 2002 marked the 32nd commencement at York College, but Marshall reminded students that the CUNY system goes back much further. The system was founded in 1847 as a means to educate the children of the city’s blue-collar workers, she said.

“You can be profoundly proud to be a graduate of the City University,” said Marshall, who is herself a CUNY graduate. “CUNY has helped to produce a large middle class that helps fuel our city today.”

At York College, about 89 percent of the students stay in the area after graduation, a statistic that bodes well for southeast Queens, Kidd said.

“The challenges of the future are great,” he said. “These graduates have the requisite abilities to make a positive difference to mankind. York College produces risk-takers and doers.”

In addition to praise, advice for the students came from each speaker. Maloney urged students to continue to fight for what they believe.

“Never just settle, for the experience of overcoming obstacles is rich,” she said.

Susan O’Malley, a faculty trustee on the CUNY board asked students to remember what they had gotten from the CUNY system, especially when voting.

“Make sure the candidate you choose is a friend of the CUNY system,” she said.

And Marshall told the graduates to go after their desires.

“Pursue your dreams and make sure they are your dreams,” she said.

Kidd is confident his students will succeed in all they do.

“These graduates are destined to make great contributions to our city, to our nation, and to our world,” he said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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