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CCRI celebrates 49th commencement

May 16, 2014

The Community College of Rhode Island awarded 1,817 degrees and certificates at its 49th commencement today in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House at the Knight Campus in Warwick.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Congressman David Cicilline and Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso brought greetings and congratulations to the Class of 2014.

In his commencement address, President Ray Di Pasquale told the graduating class to be proud that they are now a part of more than 62,000 CCRI alumni and encouraged them to share the importance of education with others.

"As college graduates, we take on new responsibilities. We realize that others helped us to get here today, and it's only right that we pay that forward. In these difficult economic times, we all know someone who is struggling and has no idea what steps to take or where to turn. I want all of you to take a second and think of someone in your life who could use your help and support," he said. "Reach out to him or her with words of encouragement and advice and share how education has changed your life. Education is the key to unlocking Rhode Island's economic solutions, and whether it's here at CCRI or elsewhere, continuing education is a critical first step."

Before sharing the personal stories of some of the graduates, he said, "We know you will continue to make us proud by overcoming the challenges that you face. Class of 2014, there is so much for you to do, and the world is ready for you!

Chad McFarlane, 30, a student veteran and Providence resident, addressed his classmates as Class of 2014 student commencement speaker.

"I bet each and every person in here has experienced adversity on the road to this point. Whether it's the 18-year-old working two jobs trying to figure out how to pay for school; the single parent balancing dinner, diapers and class work; or the 57-year-old student veteran coming back into classroom after 30 years, you know a challenge when you see one," he said.

"My own life has seen a few twists and turns up to this point, from a low of living in my car wondering if I would even graduate high school; to serving two tours in Baghdad; delivering mail in the USPS; to ultimately walking across this very stage with my fellow classmates," he continued. Through all these chapters of my life thus far, like you, I have endured, persevered."

He said, "CCRI is a unique institution in that it takes all comers, problems and all. It says no matter what you may have been through, there is a home for you" and everyone at the college wants students to succeed. "If you stumble, they will pick you up. If you have a question, they will help you find an answer. And if for whatever reason you can't finish, the door is always open, welcoming you back."

He spoke about the changes he has seen in himself from the time he started attending the college in 2010, when feelings of self-doubt echoed in his head and told him he shouldn't be here. But now, he said, he hears a different chorus, and it says, "you belong here."

He told his classmates, "As we proceed across the stage and receive our hard-earned diplomas, after the applause dies down and we move on to our next journey, remember to take a moment think about the person you were before you stepped foot at CCRI. You are a product of your experience, and CCRI is now a part of that."

On Thursday night, Alumni Association President-elect Joseph Fleming '74 oversaw the presentation of superlative-type awards to those graduates who attended commencement rehearsal:

  • Helen Sanchez, 69, of Pawtucket, who received her certificate in Phlebotomy, and June Couture, 64, of North Smithfield, who received her certificate in Travel and Tourism, were the oldest graduates in attendance.
  • Samantha Cawley, who received her associate degree in Nursing, won the award for having the most children – 10.


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Last Updated: 4/1/15