York grads relish their last moments

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Several members of York College’s graduating class savored their memories of life on the Jamaica campus Friday as their teachers, predecessors and elected officials wished them well in their endeavors.

Hundreds of young adults, draped in their school colors of black and red, made their way into the athletic field of the Jamaica campus for their rite of passage. For many, the day was a dream come true since they not only worked hard to achieve their bachelor’s or master’s degrees, but also got to revel in their success with their friends and families.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Haseena Yassin, 21, of Hollis, who earned a bachelor’s of science in psychology.

Yassin, who will be studying at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the fall for criminal science, said that although she had a rich experience in the classroom, it was the personal moments she shared with her classmates that will stay in her memories.

“Being able to experience different communities, it was great,” she said.

Other students had similar experiences. Lisa Cooper, a former Queens Village resident, first started classes in 2003, but had to take time off when she gave birth to her second son.

Despite the challenges of being a single mother, she was able to complete her bachelor’s in health promotion management and is currently living in California working in the state’s school system.

“It was a lot of work, but I never complained and said, ‘Do it,’” the 38-year-old said.

The event’s special guests echoed that sentiment in their speeches to the graduates.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) humored the crowd with the story about his first post-college experience. In the much-repeated tale, Schumer was given a grant to travel across the world with all expenses paid, but turned it down to be with his then-girlfriend.

She had dumped him by the end of the summer.

The elected official said the rejection depressed him, but eventually he was able to get back on his feet and apply to law school, which led him onto his path into politics.

“We all have doubts, but don’t let your doubts overcome you,” he said.

The commencement speaker, city Comptroller John Liu, acknowledged that in today’s economy and uncertain times, some of the graduates will not have an easy time finding their place. The former Flushing councilman urged the students to be courageous and assured them that in time their hard work would pay off.

“There will be challenges that are coming your way. I implore you to take on every challenge,” he said.

Cary Coleman of Connecticut, who was seeing her niece graduate with a degree in gerontological studies, said her relative did not have a permanent job lined up yet but was confident she would find a career.

“I think with the personality she has, she’ll get a job,” the aunt said of her niece, Zuri Coleman.

York’s valedictorian, Joi Yau, who earned a bachelor’s of science in math, compared her experience of going to college to an exercise workout. At first it seemed daunting and the course load might have left some tired, but in the end they all became strengthened mentally and personally.

“Finally, today our workouts have paid off,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:46 pm, October 10, 2011
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