The American dream of higher education came true for 1,500 students in Bayside Friday when they officially received their degrees from Queensborough Community College.
During a two-hour ceremony under a tent awning on the college's athletic field, professors, students and elected officials praised the graduates, many of whom faced major financial or cultural obstacles to claim their prize.
"For many, you are the first in your families to graduate college — and believe you me, that is an unforgettable experience," Queensborough President Eduardo Marti said.
The average GPA for the class of 2008 was 2.82, he said, assuring them their graduation was no easy feat.
"You are among the one-fourth who made it," he said. "While it is very easy to get in, it is very difficult to leave Queensborough."
"Many of you have children, jobs, a family life," Marti said. "But you have persevered."
He noted one nursing student could not meet the financial requirements of a class after the birth of his son.
"But he's graduating now as head of the nursing society," Marti said.
Jamaica resident Chen Harrell, 29, a business administration major, plans to pursue a four-year degree.
"I like this school," she said, noting she hopes to pursue work in international business.
Nursing student Trina Bascon, 22, of Rosedale, said graduating was very hard work.
"I spent hours in the library," she said. "I worked for this." Now Bascon hopes to further her studies, possibly at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Her classmate, Alanda Casimir, 23, of St. Albans, also hopes to pursue a higher degree at York College.
"But I want to go on vacation first," she said. "I don't want to see another book for at least a year."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York), who spoke, called the facility "one of the great community colleges in our country."
The 2008 class is significant, Schumer said, because of its familiarity with the new digital age.
"You are the first generation to be fluent in this new technology," he said. "That means something."
"The world is yours," Borough President Helen Marshall said. "All you have to do is have the determination to get there."
"You are well prepared to tackle the issues facing us as New Yorkers and Americans," said City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis).
Lais Payano, student government president, told her classmates that they had reached a milestone, but also expressed some nostalgia as she prepared to leave the school.
"It's so weird how when you come here for the first time, you feel so lost, and then after two semesters, Queensborough seems like your second home," she said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2008 Community News Group
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