From left: Salutatorian Caio Matias and Valedictorian Ashley Morales
Essex County College celebrated its 47th annual Commencement Friday, June 3 with 1,433 Associate degrees and certificates awarded to graduates. The ceremony for the Class of 2016 was held at the Prudential Center, Newark.
This year’s class included 260 students graduating with Honors, High Honors and Highest Honors. At 17, Marylynda Ogbundinkpa (Associate in Science in Biology, Pre-Medicine) is the youngest graduate. On the other side of the spectrum, Alcina George (Associate in Arts in Education) is 63 years young.
This year’s class came from 53 municipalities throughout New Jersey (mostly from Essex County) and 18 foreign countries. Countries represented by the class included Brazil, Cameroon, China, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria, Panama, The Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turkey.
Valedictorian Ashley Morales (Associate in Science in Business Administration) urged her classmates to look to the future with confidence. “You earned being here today. Be proud of what you have accomplished and the great institution behind you that played a part in making you who you are today,” said the 21 year old Newark resident who is currently attending Rutgers University-Newark’s Business School, as a management major.
In her valedictorian address, Ashley paid homage to Dr. Seuss, noting his book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” can be an inspiration to her and her classmates.
Caio Matias, a Biology, Pre-Medicine major originally from Brazil, served as this year’s class salutatorian. A resident of Kearny, he will attend Yale University this fall. His ultimate goal is working for Doctors Without Borders.
Dr. Edwin W. Powell, an Educational Psychologist/Assistant Professor in the Department of Community & Family Medicine at Howard University, served as keynote speaker.
In his address, Dr. Powell posed a challenge to the graduates: “If not you, then who?” He explained that the graduates should work to find ways to help others. “You don’t have a right to remain silent; give more than others think is necessary. Use your skills to help others.” He was also awarded an honorary degree from the College.
Acting President Dr. A. Zachary Yamba presided at the ceremony. “To the graduates of 2016 I say: pursue your dreams with passion and strive to live lives of selfless service. I urge you to go out into the world and be agents of change. Work to bring people together for solutions that can serve the common good. And stay true to the Essex County College tradition of service and excellence.
Longtime English Professor (Division of Humanities) A. Patricia Bartinique served as Grand Marshal.