York College held a celebratory 48th commencement ceremony in Jamaica with a record-breaking 1,206 graduates receiving their degrees Friday.
Margaret MacNeil, a biology professor, was the chief faculty marshal and initiated the event by raising a ceremonial staff for the graduation to begin and Thomas Marion, a professor of fine arts served as the master of ceremonies.
Marcia Keizs, the president of York College addressed the graduating body and highlighted the diversity of the class of 2018 and the new programs at the 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. school.
“You hail from 80 nations of origin,” said Keizs. “You speak over 50 languages. You range in age from 20 to 60. You also come from all of the boroughs and across the nation. You are a determined group of people.”
This year was the first time students graduated with degrees for the master’s in the physician assistants program and the Pharmaceutical and Business program, according to Keizs.
Graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average was Clinton Chibuike Ehidom, 20, a Bronx resident from Nigeria who came to pursue the American dream in 2010 and had 19 relatives at the graduation boisterously cheering him on.
“I am extremely humbled to stand before you today as the valedictorian of the greatest York College graduation class ever -- the class of 2018,” said Ehidom.
Despite disappointing his family by having a lackluster tenure at Frederick Douglas High School in the Bronx as a C-plus student, flunking his SATs, and not making the basketball team, Ehidom decided after high school that he would work harder if he got into college.
“People hear about my success and jump to some conclusion and think I’m some type of genius,” said Ehidom. “I stand before you today, because I turned my biggest failures into motivation to succeed.”
After passing his admissions test to York College by a few points, Ehidom doggedly pursued a degree in biology and would stay at school for up to 15 hours for five to six days a week.
“I woke up at 6 in the morning to get to school at 9 a.m., and I would stay at school until 11 p.m. or 12 a.m.,” said Ehidom. “Trials and tribulations will come, but remind yourself that they will last only for a moment, because if you can endure, if you can fight and keep pushing forward success is inevitable. What I’m saying to you is when you fall, fall forward.”
Ehidom announced at the end of his speech that he was accepted into seven medical school programs.
“I am very proud of him,” said Stella Chinedo, Ehidom’s aunt. “We abandoned everything today to be here today, because he made all of us proud – he worked so hard.”
Elected officials at the event included U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica).
Schumer knew exactly how Chinedo felt, because he and his wife watched their daughter graduate a few years ago.
“One of the greatest days of your lives is to watch your children become adults before your very eyes,” Schumer told the parents and relatives in the crowd.
Adams praised the students for overcoming obstacles to get to this day.
“The first day of the rest of your lives is culminating in this wonderful service,” said Adams. “A lot of you have come through financial hardship. A lot of you had come through health challenges. A lot of you came through domestic issues, but you made it. You made it... Welcome to your future.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose
©2018 Community News Group
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