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Kingsborough Community College Celebrates 59th Commencement

59th Commencement

KCC Celebrates 59th Commencement, Marking 60 Years of Educational Excellence

Kingsborough Community College Celebrates 59th Commencement, Marking 60 Years of Educational Excellence


Friends and family celebrated the more than 1,700 students who graduated from Kingsborough Community College on June 18, 2024, despite the sweltering temperatures. The number included 73 students from Kingsborough Early College Secondary School who had been part of the college community since they were in the sixth grade. After completing a rigorous and special curriculum, they graduated with both a New York City high school diploma and an associate degree.

Interim President Suri Duitch paid homage to the founders of the College, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. “On this 60th anniversary, and at this 59th commencement, let's express gratitude to the group of founders for having created an institution with a deep culture of belief that all students from all backgrounds deserve the transformative opportunities of higher education and, as well, a belief that every single one of us has the capacity for success in pursuing our dreams. Your individual strengths and accomplishments and your diversity contribute greatly to our collective power as a community.”

She praised the forward-thinking advocates and activists who fought to build a community college at the Manhattan Beach location over 60 years ago, musing, “No matter how farsighted they were, I think that they might not have considered that Kingsborough would become one of the best such institutions in the nation. A place where, literally, from the moment you walk onto the grounds of the campus, you are surrounded by people in every single role at every level of power and seniority who see themselves as being, in part, responsible for your success as a student, with the incredible diversity that comes from enrolling a student body originating from at least 55 different countries.” She noted that 156 graduating students began their college careers as English as a Second Language students, including this year’s salutatorian, business administration major Maged Ba Qatyan, who graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Adaiah Brunson, the current student government president, introduced keynote speaker New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams. The Speaker encouraged students to engage with their community as they move forward. “Don't be afraid to ask for help and be generous with yourself, with the inner gifts that you possess, as you make your own way today. You are starting the newest chapter of your life. Wherever you go, just remember that you will never be alone because your loved ones and your community will be right here with you.”

Of her many accomplishments since becoming speaker in January 2022, she highlighted the CUNY Reconnect program, a City Council-funded initiative to help more adults return to higher education. “When I became speaker of the Council and learned that 700,000 working-aged New Yorkers had left our CUNY colleges without graduating, I recognized this as a unique opportunity to help people pursue their callings and fulfill their dreams,” she said. “The overwhelmingly majority of these New Yorkers are women, black, Latino, and other people of color. Many left college not because they wanted to, but because they had no other choice. These students had economic or family obligations that required them to step away from school if given the opportunity to complete their degrees.” To date, the initiative has helped more than 33,000 students return to college. Over 4,000 CUNY Reconnect students received diplomas this spring, including nearly 800 Kingsborough students.

Biology professor Dr. Mary Ortiz brought greetings from the faculty, reminding students to do what they love and make their behavior reflect their values. “Don't make decisions because you're easy or popular or cheap. Make them because they're right, and do the right thing. If every decision you make is based on the answer to the question ‘what's best for the student or the patient or the customer,’ then you will never go wrong.” The diehard Star Trek fan ended her remarks with: “As Captain John Picard of the Starship Enterprise said, seize the time. Live now. Always make now the most precious time, because now will never come again. You are just at the beginning of the adventure.”

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez shared the emotional connection he has to the regalia he wears when attending commencement exercises. It was given to him by his grandmother, who was appalled to learn that he would rent his robe to attend his doctorate graduation. Despite facing prejudice, sexism, and poverty in rural Puerto Rico, she managed to earn the necessary funds as a seamstress to pursue her education. She later attended the University of Puerto Rico through a program similar to today’s community colleges and spent 40 years as a public-school English teacher. “With that job, she paved the way for her son—my dad—to become an engineer and contributed financially to the education of her three grandchildren, your Chancellor included.”

“My abuela, my grandmother, is the perfect example of what people with great potential like you and determination can do if provided with the opportunities of public education and the support and encouragement of their families,” he told the Class of 2024. “My cap and gown make me think about my abuela and my family. I wonder what would have happened to her potential, to my father's potential, or to my own potential if there had not been a public university, a public institution that opened the doors of education for them.”

Last to speak was valedictorian Mariami Kochiashvili, who immigrated to the United States from Georgia in 2022. Passionate about one day becoming a doctor who could save lives, she enrolled as a biology major at Kingsborough for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience for the types of research she was interested in conducting. “Through engaging lectures, hands-on laboratory experiments, and informative discussions, KCC helped me to excel in my chosen path and become a leader and a critical thinker,” she shared. “I'm grateful to everyone who saw potential in me, contributed to my success, and gave me a chance to work for my goals.”

While at Kingsborough, Mariami served as vice president of scholarship for the college’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) International Honor Society chapter and became a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). She collaborated with biology chair Kristin Polizzotto on creating a vertebrate anatomy dissection guide for general biology classes that was licensed as an open educational resource by Creative Commons, benefiting students beyond KCC by eliminating the need to purchase an expensive textbook. In addition, she conducted award-winning research with her mentor, Prof. Roberto Mariani, who helped her develop her research skills as part of the CUNY Research Scholars Program (CRSP).

“At Kingsborough Community College, opportunities are endless,” she stressed. “I will miss this incredible community and my professors, who taught me a lot of things about various fields. As we embark on the next chapter of our journeys, I want to wish all of you to continue pursuing your dreams with passion and grit. Each of us has the potential to become a leader and change-maker with the power to make a positive impact in this world. I encourage all of you to dream big, take risks, and never settle for less than what you are capable of. While this path may seem hard, always have faith that your work will be appreciated and not let anyone break you down.”

59th Commencement Program:

Commencement Ceremony Recording:


Profiles of Members of the Class of 2024:

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