In a ceremony fit for a special anniversary, Hostos conferred degrees to its largest number of graduates in the College’s history on Thursday, June 2, at New York City Center.
Some 1,196 students were celebrated at the College’s 45th Commencement, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. served as the keynote speaker. Diaz also was recognized with the President’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the College.
Hostos President Dr. David Gómez congratulated the class on their dedication, but also urged them to push forward. He also singled out certain students who pushed through particularly strong obstacles, including Devon Simmons, who graduated thanks to the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program an initiative of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in collaboration with Hostos. Simmons graduated with honors and is pursuing his baccalaureate degree at John Jay this fall.
“I challenge anyone in this nation to argue that you are not the best that this nation has to offer,” Gómez said. “As you move on to the next stage of your careers be it in your chosen professions or in advanced study, remember how you got here. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot succeed. Always proudly proclaim that you are Hostos. You are the best.”
Diaz Jr. told the graduates his own personal story of perseverance as a young father who graduated from two CUNY colleges and eventually became Bronx Borough President.
“Stick together,” Diaz Jr. told the graduates. “Realize the lessons you learned from one another. … You have the tools. You can conquer the world.”
Electrical engineering scholar Wendy Fernández, a native of the Dominican Republic, served as 2016 Valedictorian. This summer she will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) 2016 Summer Program in Biology and Neuroscience before returning to complete her bachelor’s degree at City College in the fall. She is also planning to pursue a Ph.D. related to electricity and a career in software design.
“We are fighters,” Fernández told her classmates as she also thanked the pioneers who fought to keep the College open during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. “Today you can say, ‘I did it!’”
Fernandez, who moved to New York from the Dominican Republic and spoke little English when she arrived in the U.S., also talked of her own struggles. She moved with her family three times as a college student and had to share a bedroom with her siblings. She credited the support she received from Hostos, particularly Engineering Professor Yoel Rodríguez, for changing the trajectory of her life.
“I tell my story, because it is our story. … Hostos gave us the wings to follow our dreams.”
Serving as 2016 Salutatorian was mathematics major Santtee Agrispin. The Bronx native will pursue his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at City College.
Other dignitaries who addressed the Class of 2016 included Senator Chuck Schumer, Philip Alfonso Berry, Broad of Trustees from CUNY; and Frank D. Sánchez, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs for CUNY. Hostos Professor Alberto Bird served as Master of Ceremonies and Professor Alida Pastoriza Maldonado was Grand Marshal.
In special celebration of the 45th anniversary of commencement, the College also will honored 12 Distinguished Alumni, who not only excelled in their field of choice but have remained supportive of Hostos, including Victor Vázquez, class of 1978, now Chair of the Social Sciences Department at Miami Dade College; and 2006 alumna, Yesenia Lendor-Montero, who improved her English skills at Hostos and is now working as a structural engineer for New York City’s Environmental Protection Agency.
About Hostos Community College
Eugenio María de Hostos Community College is an educational agent for change that has been transforming and improving the quality of life in the South Bronx and neighboring communities since 1968. It serves as a gateway to intellectual growth and socioeconomic mobility, as well as a point of departure for lifelong learning, success in professional careers, and transfer to advanced higher education programs. The College’s unique Student Success Coaching Unit provides students with individualized guidance and exemplifies its emphasis on student support services.
Named one of the top 10 finalists for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, Hostos offers 28 associate degree programs and two certificate programs that facilitate easy transfer to The City University of New York’s (CUNY) four-year colleges or baccalaureate studies at other institutions. The College has an award-winning Division of Continuing Education & Workforce Development that offers professional development courses and certificate-bearing workforce training programs. Hostos is part of CUNY, the nation’s leading urban public university, which serves more than 500,000 students at 24 colleges.