Essex County College celebrated its 49th annual Commencement Friday, June 1 with 1,315 Associate degrees and certificates awarded to graduates. The ceremony for the Class of 2018 was held at the Prudential Center, Newark.
Valedictorian Eniola Kolawole, who graduated with a perfect 4.0 (Associate in Science in Biology, Pre-Medicine) urged her classmates to “take a chance, take a leap of faith, spread your light to the world and dream bigger because nothing is impossible.” Eniola will transfer this fall to the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “We came to this College with dreams and ambitions and, today, we are leaving with even greater ambitions.”
Noted actor John Amos, who was born in Newark and grew up in East Orange, gave a similar theme in his keynote address to the graduates and their families and friends. “We need the confidence and vision of you, the graduates, more than at any time in our history. Our collective futures will be so much brighter with you leading the way.” The star of Good Times and an Emmy nominee for his performance of Kunta Kinte/Toby in Roots, said he was grateful for the opportunity to address the graduates in his hometown. “Thank you for inviting me and let’s make Newark proud,” he concluded to loud applause.
Mr. Amos was awarded with an honorary Essex County College Associate degree by College President Anthony E. Munroe and members of the College Board of Trustees.
Natacha Lima, a Liberal Arts major with a 4.0, served as this year’s Salutatorian. She will major in English at Rutgers University-Newark this fall with the goal of becoming a teacher.
The newly minted alumni come from every municipalities in Essex County as well as many surrounding New Jersey counties. Grads also hail from 27 other countries spanning the globe from Canada and Mexico to Vietnam and everywhere in between.
The biggest surprise of the ceremony was when Dr. Munroe announced the playing of a special video on the arena’s jumbotron. The recorded message was from U.S. Army Sergeant Diane Cadet to her mother Dale Cadet, who earned her Associate in Science in Social Sciences. Diane is stationed in Afghanistan. In the short video, Diane offered a special congratulations to her mom. “I am very proud of you,” she concluded. As the video faded and applause filled the arena, the jumbotron caught Dale Cadet with a surprised look as she proudly declared “that’s my daughter.”
In his address, Dr. Munroe said, “To the Class of 2018, I leave you with this thought, as you go forward in life remember you don’t have to know everything to move to the next step in life, you just need to know who or what resource will help you get there. There is a proverb that says ‘To Ask Well Is To Know Much.’ Continue to ask questions and stay curious and you will know how to take your next steps to success.
“Congratulations Class of 2018! Give yourselves a round of applause!”
This year’s class included 300 students graduating with Honors, High Honors and Highest Honors. At 18, Raamiah Edwards and Malarvily Ahruan are the youngest Essex graduates. On the other side of the spectrum, Phillips Woods is 73 years young.
Associate Professor Kathlyn Battle served as Grand Marshal to the Class of 2018. She channeled Dr. Seuss in her charge to the graduates with the line, “Oh the places you will go.” She told the graduates to “stay focused on your destination. The destination is success!”
Graduates and guests at Commencement were asked to share their experiences, thoughts, congratulatory comments and “Likes” to #essexcountycollege, #essexgrad, and #eccgrad.