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LaGuardia Community College celebrates Class of 2023 during commencement ceremony

Jun. 23, 2023 By Bill Parry

Perseverance was celebrated Wednesday as more than 2,000 members of LaGuardia Community College’s Class of 2023 received their degrees during the Long Island City school’s 51st graduating ceremony.

The event was held on the lawn of Queens College where the graduates were honored by more than 10,000 guests, which included graduates’ families and friends, CUNY leadership, elected officials, community members, and LaGuardia’s administration, faculty, staff and alumni.

Photo courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

“Graduates of LaGuardia Community College Class of 2023, you did it! You should feel good today. You made it. Your family and friends are proud of you. Your professors, advisors, mentors, coaches, and counselors are proud of you,” LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams said. “LaGuardia students excel at time management because so many juggle work and school and family obligations. Many worked their way through school. And many of you are parents or help take care of family members at home. Many of you are the first in your family to go to college and graduate. Congratulations.”

Photo courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

CUNY Trustee Mayra Linares-Garcia acknowledged the tradeoffs made by the graduates while working towards their degrees.

“Only you know the sacrifices you made to get here. Working extra hours, and not going to family gatherings. You didn’t go because you had other responsibilities—whether it was working so you could go to school, or going to school so you could work. But it brought you here,” she said. “LaGuardia gave you the foundation for your success. LaGuardia gave you the tools you need to break down any barriers and to be able to face those challenges that are coming to you. Because as you look to the future, know that the knowledge and experience you gained during your time at LaGuardia will serve you throughout your lives. When you’re a big success, you can say, I started my journey at LaGuardia.”

Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents Long Island City where the campus is located, related her personal story to the graduates, and the importance of degrees to their families.

“As a product of public education myself and as an immigrant who worked through college as the first generation to graduate in my family, it is an honor to stand here with you today, to say that you are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. You did it,” Won said. “For all of your sleepless nights, after working those late-night shifts to study for your finals. For all of those mornings when you stood on that 7 train studying your flashcards so you could make it on time to class.

Photo courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

“For all of those breaks that you took in between classes run back home to take care of your aging parents,” Won continued. “For all of those days when you ran to daycare or school to pick up your child. You have made it work, and you have got here on your own two feet…You made it.”

She also congratulated them for persevering through the pandemic.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander joked about using ChatGPT to create his speech and spoke to the graduates about the hard work they did to earn their degrees, particularly in light of trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to personal growth that cannot be achieved through artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence can produce what sounds like knowledge, often better than we can and with a whole lot less work. Two things that I believe this graduating class is capable of and that no artificial intelligence could possibly do,” Lander said. “You didn’t come to LaGuardia to produce what sounds like knowledge but what’s really just regurgitating what other people have already figured out. And you sure didn’t come here to avoid struggle and hard work. You came here to figure out how to grow through challenges. If the purpose of higher education is to learn the skills and habits you’ll need to face adversity and to thrive in an ever-changing world, I’d argue that the LaGuardia Class of 2023 is the most prepared graduating class it has ever produced.”

The 2,002 members of LaGuardia’s Class of 2023 included graduates from 85 countries and 37% of them were born outside the United States.

“One of the most valuable things that I learned at LaGuardia is to maintain persistence, to keep dreaming big and not be afraid to fail,” said Gian Castro, 27, from Peru, who earned his associate degree in Criminal Justice. “This has probably been the hardest year of my life. But it’s also the first year of my life that I feel fulfilled. I went from not caring about getting good grades to feeling excited to see my name on the Dean’s list every semester. I went from someone who did not have any goals to the person speaking at my graduation. When I started my journey, I only wanted to finish my associates to become a police officer but thanks to having amazing criminal justice professors, now I have many new goals for the future like transferring to John Jay next and starting the BS/MA program that will allow me to get my bachelor and masters in three years to reach my new final goal of becoming an FBI agent.”

This summer, Castro will enter the Police Academy. He plans to continue his studies while serving the NYPD, which provides tuition support for officers pursuing higher education.

Min Young, 26, an immigrant from Seoul, South Korea, earned her associate degree in Liberal Arts.

“LaGuardia helped me realize my potential and visualize a future that I didn’t know existed to me. I don’t even recognize the person that I was when I first started at LaGuardia two years ago. As we stand on the brink of our future, let us carry forward the spirit of collaboration and determination that we have fostered at LaGuardia. Together, we can create a future that is brighter and more inclusive for all.”

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