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CCRI celebrates the Class of 2013
May 20, 2013
During a challenging time for the United States and the New England region, perseverance was the theme of the Community College of Rhode Island’s 48th commencement. The college conferred 1,725 degrees and certificates on May 18 in a ceremony at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
The Class of 2013 was celebrated for overcoming challenges of all kinds in pursuit of an education. Students worked long hours, supported families and sometimes studied part-time for many years in order to earn a degree.
Student speaker Albino “Albe” Folcarelli spoke of his battle to overcome crippling social anxiety that once caused him to drop out of high school. Now he is bound for Columbia University after a prestigious career as a CCRI student.
Folcarelli said that the Class of 2013 is filled with students who have their own stories of overcoming great odds, whether or not those stories are known.
“What sets this institution apart and makes it a place of such societal importance is that transformations of character such as ours are commonplace here,” he said. “Every year, as is celebrated here today, lives are changed for the better and people achieve goals that they never thought possible.”
Speaking with the graduates proves him correct.
Lilie Carparco, for example, survived a battle with lung cancer that served as her wake-up call to start working in a career that she could love.
“I was an insurance adjustor, got laid off and got diagnosed with lung cancer,” she said. “When I survived, I thought this was God’s way of telling me to do what I wanted to do.”
Carparco enrolled at CCRI to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a social worker, which she avoided because of money concerns. She finished the program in two years and now works with families in crisis and children in foster care.
Many of the graduates are mothers or fathers who had to balance family concerns with their jobs, classroom time and homework. Karen Meara, a business graduate and mother of two, decorated her mortarboard hat with large pink letters spelling out a message for her children: “Your mother did it.”
“I went to their graduations so it’s only fair that they come to mine,” she said.
Meara came to CCRI after being laid off and has just been hired as a human resources and payroll director for a nursing home in Connecticut. She thanked Patricia Moore from CCRI’s financial aid office for helping her finish school.
Of all of the parents graduating, Jacqueline Berry is probably the newest one. She walked across the commencement stage while nine months pregnant. She is expecting a daughter in 10 days.
Berry almost chose not to walk at commencement because of her pregnancy but, she said: “I put in so much over the last four years [attending CCRI] that I figured I should have my day.”
Guests at this commencement ceremony included Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Board of Education Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso.
Many of these visitors told the graduates that they represent the best of Rhode Island and hopes for a better economic future are vested in them.
“No school reaches more deeply into Rhode Island than CCRI,” Chafee said, explaining that it draws students of all ages and circumstances. He said that Rhode Island is a state founded on liberty and tolerance, and urged the graduates to help write the future of the state.
Sen. Reed said that the best way to deal with an uncertain economy is the way that the graduates have chosen: to expand one’s knowledge and skill set in order to seek new, previously unavailable opportunities.
“Thank you for what you have done but more importantly, for what you will do,” he said.
CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale spoke of the great power that the community college has to change lives in Rhode Island and New England. Many of the college’s 60,000 alumni have stayed in the state and have become leaders and innovators.
He also highlighted the volunteerism of CCRI’s annual Community Service Day, in which the college’s faculty, students and staff volunteer at philanthropic sites throughout the state.
“You’re not just changing your lives,” he said, “you have been changing the lives of Rhode Islanders through your good works, and I am so proud of you … and as you leave this institution, I want you to continue serving your communities.”