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LaGuardia CC class graduates

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As LaGuardia Community College’s class of 2010 prepared to switch their tassels from one side of their caps to the other at their graduation Tuesday, faculty and speakers urged the students to be proud not only of their accomplishments, but also commended the sacrifices the students had to make to get there.

“Some of you have told me that you had left dead-end jobs and dangerous streets, enduring the ridicule of friends who thought you were reaching too high,” said Michael F. Gilligan, keynote address speaker at the ceremony.

The commencement ceremony for LaGuardia’s 38th graduating class took place at Radio City Music Hall this year, having moved from its former home at the Madison Square Garden Theater. The graduating class of the Long Island City college numbered 1,830 students, 69 percent of whom are from Queens.

Gilligan, in addition to being the keynote speaker for the ceremony, also received the college’s President’s Medal, which is given to citizens who have “advanced the cause of education and the welfare of the city’s residents,” according to a release from the college.

Gilligan has been the president of the Henry Luce Foundation since 2002. The foundation provides grants for higher eduction, American art and environmental and technological programs.

In his speech, Gilligan called college the place where people read together as well as build a community. He encouraged the students in their future endeavors.

“Keep pushing yourself to higher expectations, to bolder actions,” Gilligan said.

Continuing with college despite other responsibilities was the theme of the morning. The class representative, Layla Quinones, dropped out of high school at 16 after getting pregnant with her now 3-year-old son, London, but currently attends New York University on a full scholarship. In her speech, she praised the class for going forward with their education.

“We knew it was the best shot we had for a brighter future,” she said.

Graduate Naila Kausar, 22, who lives in Elmhurst and now attends Queens College, said she was happy looking back at her two years at LaGuardia.

“I think LaGuardia has the best professors ever, especially accounting professors,” Kausar, who was an accounting major, said. “They are the best and I miss them at Queens College.”

Melissa Trance, 24, of Ridgewood, also had good things to say about the professors and the makeup of the college.

“The classes are small and everyone is just really helpful,” she said.

Norman Hernandez, 35, of Sunnyside, said he felt like his degree from LaGuardia was just the beginning.

“I’m beyond 100 percent confident in bettering my life after this,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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