The Community College of Rhode Island awarded 1,787 degrees and certificates at its 52nd commencement today in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline and many other state and city leaders attended the commencement ceremonies to celebrate the CCRI Class of 2017.
In her commencement address, CCRI President Meghan Hughes spoke about Adam Grant’s “Originals,” a book that studies risk-takers who have changed our world.
“Even if we don’t see ourselves as super creative, we have insights every day about how the world around us could be better. Most of us don’t act on these ideas,” Hughes said. “We’re afraid we’re going to be rejected, or that we’re going to waste our time and no one is going to hear us. But it’s that moment, where you have to decide whether to do something, that’s where risk-taking comes in.”
Risk-taking, she said, is choosing to act even when you’re not certain about every single part of the plan or even whether you can succeed. It’s taking a step forward and believing in yourself.
“As you leave CCRI to head to your new career or your bachelor’s degree, I want you to see yourself as a risk-taker,” she said.
Perry will transfer to Rhode Island College to pursue a bachelor’s of public administration with a certificate in nonprofit studies and will study for a second associate degree in homeland security.
“She is breaking new ground in a brand-new field of study. Here’s what else Alyson is doing: Her biology professor, Don Fontes, pushed Alyson to act on her desire to join the military,” she said. “Now an airwoman with the Rhode Island Air National Guard, she is pursuing a career as a commissioned officer. With security clearance from the United States Air Force, Alyson is an engineering technician at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.”
De Leon, named a Coca-Cola New Century Scholar this year, moved with her family to Rhode Island from the Dominican Republic. She enrolled in ESL classes at CCRI, graduated with a degree in general studies and now will transfer to RIC to earn a bachelor’s degree so she can teach ESL to children. She later plans to earn a master’s degree so she can teach at a community college.
Hughes said De Leon calls herself shy, but was CCRI’s Phi Theta Kappa president and a tour guide at the Statehouse.
“I include her self-description as shy because I think Martha’s story goes a long way to debunking the myth that only extroverts, only extremely outgoing people, can lead,” Hughes said. “Martha’s risk-taking involves really stepping forward and laying claim to the future she wants to build for herself.”
Hughes said the graduates all pushed themselves to earn their college degree or certificate. “And pushing yourself is really the very heart of taking risk – it’s doing something even when it’s hard or scary or new. As you transition to your next challenge, your new job or your new school, you know you have what it takes to be successful. The proof is sitting right behind me in that stack of 1,787 diplomas,” she said. “As CCRI graduates, you already have inspired others to take a risk by following in your footsteps to become college students, and I want to thank you for that inspiration.”
Jazmin Delacruz, the 2017 student commencement speaker, told her classmates she wanted to be a cartoonist while growing up, but as senior year in high school approached, she needed to make a serious choice – what college to attend and what career to pursue.
“Should I even go to college? I was scared. I decided to apply only to CCRI. I knew this was the right choice for me,” she said.
“My first couple of semesters I changed my major and my career plan several times. I finally decided to go for nursing. I went through the whole process, up to applying for the program. I did not get in,” she said. “Like a lot of you here tonight who have faced disappointments, I had a decision to make. Do I give up or do I move forward? Fortunately, I moved forward.”
She will transfer to the University of Rhode Island this fall through the Joint Admissions Agreement program, where she will earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and then pursue a master’s degree in art therapy to work with children.
“We have learned many lessons throughout our academic journey here at CCRI. Today I would like to provide one final message. Our destinies are not predetermined; we are the authors of our own story. This is exemplified by the number of us sitting here today, despite the many obstacles we had to overcome. I say, let no one or nothing stand in your way of achieving your dreams and goals. We are the Class of 2017, let us go forward and change the world.”