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As proud family and friends looked on, 1,118 members of the Essex County College Class of 2022 received their hard earned Associate degrees at the College’s 53rd annual Commencement on Friday, June 3. The ceremony, the first in-person graduation since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was held in the Prudential Center, Newark.
Class Valedictorian and Liberal Arts major Latina Byrd said she is “honored and humbled” by her selection. She then handed her classmates one last assignment. “Remember how you feel today. I want you to guard this feeling and don’t let anyone, situation, nor circumstance interfere with this feeling. Furthermore, always remember that it was that same feeling that allowed you to keep going to school during a global pandemic. Ultimately, that feeling is why you are graduating today.”
A Newark City Firefighter, Latina was surprised when given several bouquets of flowers from her fellow firefighters. She is transferring to Seton Hall University with a career goal of becoming an attorney.
Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, Marion A. Bolden said, “Today, we celebrate your achievements and salute you for your hard work, your resilience, and your determination to succeed. For many of you, the journey was indeed arduous … juggling work and family responsibilities with the myriad challenges of everyday life, including the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet you overcame obstacles in every possible way. Be proud of your success and now move confidently into the next phase of your life’s plan.”
ECC’s President, Dr. Augustine A. Boakye, who presided over the ceremony, acknowledged all students who are serving or have served in the armed forces, as well as members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Educational Opportunity Fund. “Our 2022 graduates come from Essex County; from across the state of New Jersey and many nations around the world including Antigua & Barbuda, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, and Russia. We take pride in the rich diversity of our students at Essex County College.”
New Jersey Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake, representing the state’s 34th Legislative District, was keynote speaker. “I congratulate you on your achievements. Many of you are now first and second-generation college graduates. We need you to keep going and achieve. Fortune favors the bold,” she said. After her address, Assemblywoman Timberlake was presented an honorary Degree of Associate in Liberal Arts.
Krystle Sanabria, a Social Science major, served as class Salutatorian. She is transferring to Montclair State University where she will major in Education.
Class of 2022 Assistant Marshals, who had the honor of leading the processional into the arena, were Fatoumata Fofana (General Science); Ines Kenfack Donfack (Biology, Pre-Medicine); Jenny Simbaina (Finance); and Nicholas Stremel (Engineering).
Biology Professor Yasser Kabakibiwas Grand Marshal for the class. “Today is a day of celebration, recognition of your achievements and earning of your diplomas. This is a time of new beginnings, not the end. It is a beginning of a journey to reach your future goals. A journey that is full of innovations, self-advancements, opportunities to impact others to make the world a better place, and self-reflections for continuous improvements,” he told the class prior to the traditional tassel turning.
The youngest graduate in this year’s class is Maya Abdurrashid, 15. Linda Brown, at 73, is the oldest new alumna. Both majored in Liberal Arts.