Commencement 2009

Remarks by President Ray Di Pasquale
May 15, 2009

Congressman Kennedy, Governor Carcieri, Lieutenant Governor Roberts, Treasurer Caprio, Chairman Caprio, Commissioner Warner, members of the Board of Governors for Higher Education; retired chief justice Frank Williams, student speaker Reham Ali, city, state and federal officials; CCRI faculty, staff and alumni; guests and friends of the college … thanks to all of you for being such an important part of this extraordinary day!

To the members of the 2009 graduating class of the Community College of Rhode Island…congratulations on becoming the newest members of “TEAM CCRI!”

Tonight is about your success. And I could stand here all night and tell you wonderful stories of your classmates and the challenges they have overcome. Every year, we seek out stories of great achievement to share with the community and across the state. Tonight, I’d like to share two stories with you, but you can find all of our success stories from this graduating class on our website. I encourage you to read them, because they are so inspirational.

Rosanna Boucher is becoming a registered nurse this month, but she has already been a nurse to some of the most important patients she will ever have. In 2002, her premature twins spent nine weeks in the hospital fighting for their lives. When they came home, daughter Allie had seizures that were so violent that she would stop breathing, and son Konnor was diagnosed with autism when he was 2. Then, in 2005, Rosanna’s husband Ray was diagnosed with melanoma. Should the worst happen, the Bouchers knew that Rosanna could not support herself and the twins alone on her salary, so she came to CCRI to study nursing. Raised as one of nine siblings in a small town in Ireland, she didn’t consider herself to be college material and was pressured to get married young and start a family instead. But she came to America in 1987 as a nanny with just $40 in her pocket. As it turned out, she clearly was college material and she is graduating tonight with a 3.4 GPA! And there’s more good news. Her twins’ medical problems have subsided and her husband’s melanoma has been removed. Rosanna’s dream job is in end-of-life care, making terminal illness easier on patients and their families, and she hopes to continue on to receive her bachelor’s degree. Congratulations on your success, and we extend our best wishes for continued health for your family.

At age 12, Jean Nsabumuremyi was on the run for his life. He was alone in Kigali, Rwanda, in 1994, the year of genocide in that country. When the killing suddenly began, he fled with his family, joining a crowd of refugees looking for a safe way out of the city. He quickly lost his way. After a day on his own, Jean found his mother and his four brothers and two sisters, who were able to escape because his father, who was out of the country at the time, had friends in the government. The family fled to the Congo to escape the violence in their country, spending each night in a different hiding place, until they moved again to Zambia, where they lived in a United Nations refugee camp before resettling in the United States in 1996. Jean got a job and struggled at first to learn English, but he knew he wanted to better himself. He enrolled at CCRI in fall 2006, and graduates today with a degree in General Studies and a 3.6 GPA. Jean will attend Cornell University in the fall, where he will major in international development with the ultimate goal of working with the United Nations Development Program in Africa. Jean, we have no doubt you will achieve all of your dreams. Congratulations!

Each year I have been at the college, we have selected a student speaker to share his or her experiences with the graduating class. The program has gained popularity in these four years, as this spring we had 12 nominations! All were impressive candidates, and our committee had a difficult choice to make. I’ll introduce you to your student speaker in a moment, but first I’d like to mention some of the other candidates and ask them to stand for recognition.

Menlee Mansue came here with his parents at age 4 during civil war and genocide in his native Liberia. They received asylum and settled in Providence, where Menlee said that in trying to navigate American culture, he was not being the scholar he could be. After high school, he was working three jobs when he realized that he had to take advantage of the opportunities offered here and attend college. He completed two semesters at Rhode Island College but left because he couldn’t afford the cost. Then he met Cristian Potter, our student speaker two years ago, who will soon graduate from Brown University. Cristian encouraged Menlee to come to CCRI. Now he’s graduating with a 3.85 GPA and hopes to follow in Cristian’s footsteps to Brown, where he wants to study economics and political science, with hopes of attaining a law degree in the future. Menlee, we are proud of you for realizing your potential!

One day at age 13, Sergio Pratt got on the bus for school as he did every day. But on that morning, he was taken into state custody at his own request. He left a desperate situation at home in favor of an unsure future as a ward of the state: moving from group home to group home before he finally found foster care at age 15. He knew that education was the way out, but he was on his own at 18 and forced to go to work to support himself. In 2007, he enrolled at CCRI. He has made a difference here, as president of the Flanagan Campus student government, and is graduating with a degree in law enforcement today with a GPA of 3.2. He will continue on to Roger Williams University and plans to become a lawyer to help children in his situation. Congratulations for all you’ve overcome, Sergio.

Arabia Kopec is one of 12 children born to American missionaries who traveled the world working for international aid organizations. She has lived all over the world, but found her calling to become a midwife in 1989 while working with the Red Cross in Hungary, a country where women were given drugs to induce birth and often had unnecessary cesarean sections. Arabia credits CCRI’s night-and-weekend program with allowing her to study for her nursing degree, because as a single mother with two children, she maintained a full-time job as a marketing manager the entire time she studied in this rigorous program. And today she is graduating with a 3.72 GPA. Arabia, we’re sure you’re an inspiration to your children. Congratulations!

Some of you might have seen Lauren Bambera in recent CCRI Players productions or at our Salute to the Arts event. Lauren was dealing with some difficult times in high school and dropped out, but she eventually graduated. She came to CCRI because of its theater program and has maintained a 4.0 GPA! She said, “Because of CCRI I’ve learned a sense of responsibility and determination. Before, I hated school and now I can’t get enough of it.” Lauren is going on to a bachelor’s program in theater at Salem State and she hopes to earn her master’s degree and some day open her own theater company. Lauren, we’ll be looking for your name in lights!

Those are just a few of our outstanding speaker candidates. I’d like to recognize all of our nominees, so will you please stand when I call your name? Ilca Almeida, Samantha Crowe, Nancy Davis-Wilson, Michael Earnheart, Kate Fish, Danielle Lovett and Donna Powers.

Wherever I go in the community, I talk about all of your successes. I talk about the accomplishments of our faculty and staff. I talk about the community spirit we have among our campuses, as evidenced by your enthusiasm during All College Week. Even in these trying economic times, you have persevered by acquiring new knowledge and valuable skills at CCRI that will prepare you for your future. Indeed, this is a place where you can change your life and achieve your dreams.

Wherever you go or whatever you do, you will always be connected to CCRI. But for now, before you take the next step in your future, take a moment to reflect on your achievements. They are truly incredible, and we are so proud of you.

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