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CCRI celebrates the success of its graduates
May 18, 2012
For the 1,659 graduates at the Community College of Rhode Island’s 47th commencement on May 18, the day was about celebrating each other. Students cheered as CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale shared the personal stories of a few members of the Class of 2012.
The graduates included Anthony Paolino, who worked on his degree for 10 years between overseas deployments with the R.I. Air National Guard and is the head of a nonprofit organization serving returning veterans; Regina Castro, who immigrated to the U.S. only three years ago,mastered English, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA in her major of General Business; and Alejandro Tobon, who lost everything in the real estate market collapse and returned to school to become an exercise physiologist and help people lead healthier lifestyles.
Student speaker Lauren Macbeth said that the Class of 2012 is full of such stories, and that together they make up a diverse and supportive community.
“Each of our stories is unique,” she said. “Today we all stand together as one community – a community of support and strength, a community composed of each other.”
Macbeth herself was home-schooled and nervous about entering the classroom for the first time in college. She said she found a strong community of fellow students at CCRI who helped her succeed.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline and Gov. Lincoln Chafee attended the commencement ceremony and offered their congratulations to the graduates.
“This is the most exciting and energized room in the state of Rhode Island right now,” Whitehouse said, adding, “I’m happy to share in the pride that your families feel for you today.”
Cicilline said that the Class of 2012 is an example of the importance of investing in education and thanked the graduates for their efforts.
Chafee said that the graduates represent the best of Rhode Island.
“No school reaches more deeply or democratically into Rhode Island than CCRI,” he said. He also encouraged the graduates to be honest above all. “I hope that no matter what you choose to do, you will make honest use of your good education,” he said.
Di Pasquale reminded the graduates that they are now a part of a group of 58,000 alumni who work in many different fields throughout the country.
“The power of the community college is great,” he said, “as you have all seen in your time here.” He reminded the graduates to thank “your faculty, staff, parents, siblings and friends who have helped you get here today.”
For many of the graduates, the day was very much about family.
Chrystal Smith, a 42-year-old Nursing graduate, said she is following in the footsteps of her mother, who also graduated from CCRI at age 42.
“My mother was a single mother with four of us children and she raised us very well, she took good care of us and that’s been my inspiration,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, the Egan family had the privilege of seeing two generations graduate on the same day. John Egan Sr. graduated with a degree in Fire Science and his son John Egan Jr. earned a degree in General Studies, with hopes of earning a B.A. in computer science.
The elder Egan is a retired firefighter with his own consulting business and chose to finish his long-delayed degree after seeing his wife enroll at Salve Regina University and his sons at Rhode Island College and CCRI.
“My two sons were getting into college, so I saw how hard they were working and it motivated me even more,” he said.
He and John Jr. had a ritual of meeting on CCRI’s Flanagan Campus every Tuesday evening, when their schedules brought them close together.
“It’s an honor that we’re graduating together,” Egan said.
Graduate Amber Lewin was motivated by her father in a very different way, turning a family tragedy into a new start for herself. “A couple of years ago, my dad was dying with Legionnaire’s disease,” Lewin said. “I promised to go back to college and get out of working in retail and this is my way of keeping my promise.”
Lewin earned a degree in Early Childhood Education and Development and plans to go on to the University of Rhode Island.
Whatever their backgrounds or plans for the future, Di Pasquale said the hard work that the graduates put into earning their degrees will continue to serve them well.
“This is a life-changing day for all of you,” he said, “and you deserve all of the recognition you are getting.”