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CCRI celebrates 51st commencement
May 20, 2016
The Community College of Rhode Island awarded 1,918 degrees and certificates at its 51st commencement today in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House at the Knight Campus in Warwick.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline and many other state and city leaders attended the commencement ceremonies to cheer on the CCRI Class of 2016.
In her first commencement as CCRI president, Dr. Meghan Hughes told graduates, "our students – you! – are our greatest asset. Every day I see your display of resilience, grit and strength of purpose. You impress and inspire everyone who works for this college.
"You have pushed through to a degree while working a job – sometimes two or three – some of you while raising children – sometimes two or three. And the skills that you developed from having to learn how to be a student, a worker and a parent – all at the same time – will serve you incredibly well as you move forward into the workforce or to a four-year college or university. Why? Because you have the grit, focus and determination that will absolutely ensure your success.
"Be proud of what you have achieved here and know that you have positioned yourself to be incredibly successful. CCRI is a place of talent. You are inventive, creative and excellent at solving problems like how to work for eight hours and then attend class, go home and study and take care of family obligations and then get up and do it all over again.
"This tenacity is an asset, and it's one your next college or employer will be incredibly fortunate to have. Your life stories are your greatest strength. Your life stories, and those of your families, are your most powerful and enduring assets. They are what have empowered you to be so successful, to be here tonight graduating."
Brandon Langdon, 26, a student veteran and Middletown resident addressed his classmates as the 2016 student commencement speaker.
Langdon served for six years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was discharged after suffering PTSD following an incident in which drug-runners ambushed his crew and his supervisor died in his arms. At CCRI, he discovered his passion for writing and will go on to pursue a four-year degree and career in the field.
"Some of our greatest achievements happen when we overcome our worst failures. I know each and every single one of you have had some form of adversity to overcome but it's your perseverance, mental toughness and sheer willpower that has brought you to this moment in life," he said.
"They say that there is no better gift than giving and, while that's all well and good, I say there is no better satisfaction than earning. Earning that 'A' after all the stress and pressure you put on yourself to succeed. The long nights studying, the endless hours of reading and typing, cup after cup after cup of coffee to help keep you awake to complete all of this. Stressed out of your mind and worrying about your next exam or the next paper due, all while juggling the stressors of work, your significant other, your friends, the baby, the dog, the dishes. The list goes on and on with the things we have to stay on top of in our everyday lives, and now we have one less thing to worry about: that degree," he said.
"I stand before you as a man who has been beaten and broken time and time again but one thing I can say is that I never gave up. I dug deep and pulled myself out of my failures and mistakes, dusted myself off and kept moving one step at a time," he said. "But don't look at failure as a negative thing. Look at it as an opportunity. An opportunity to reinvent yourself, an opportunity to learn something new, an opportunity to say that 'no matter what life throws at me, I am ready for the challenge, I will overcome it and I will be a better person for it.'"
On Thursday night, Alumni Association President Joseph Fleming '74 oversaw the presentation of superlative-type awards to graduates who attended commencement rehearsal:
- George Plante, 70, of Pawtucket, who received his associate degree in Law Enforcement, and Rhina Alonzo, 65, of Pawtucket, who received her certificate in Early Childhood Education, were the oldest graduates in attendance.
- Plante also won the award for having the most children – six.
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