New York Community College Completion Day (2013)

New York Community College Completion Day (2013)


– Welcome to the third annual College Completion event. As some of you may know, this
is a national initiative, it is a state-wide initiative, Governor Cuomo declared this
week College Completion Week and so all across New York state, young people are assembling
in community colleges to pledge to complete their AA degrees. We’re very, very happy to
have you all here today, and we would like to open up our events by welcoming our president,
President Diane Call. (applause) – Thank you, thank you so much. We’re competing, today is club day, which, we’ve moved this
semester to 12:10 to 2:10. Find the moving club hours. I’m glad you found us, I
understand that 500 students have signed the pledge to commit, complete, and compete, and I love that phrase
because that’s exactly what our students do, our graduates do. They are among the most sought-after community college
graduates in the country, we get calls from all over asking for our students to apply to a variety of wonderful colleges, because they all have
degrees from Queensborough. So I commend you on
your commitment because that will give you what we
call the edge for success. This particular event, again, we’re trying to focus
throughout the week on students, making them aware of the
advantages to complete a degree. And I wanna thank, obviously,
the student government, who has been part of this
organization for a long time, and our two wonderful
advisors to Phi Theta Kappa, which is the national honors society, and Doctor Tai, Doctor Svoronos, thank you for your leadership. Of course, student affairs,
Vice President Hartigan and Ray and her office does great things. We really are blessed to
have an amazing college, we have amazing faculty, which I don’t have to tell
you about, ’cause you know. And we have amazing students. So, some of them have
graduated and gone on and come back home, and if
you look in our catalog, if anybody can find a
print copy these days, you’ll see in the back all
the student, all the students, all the faculty and staff who
are part of our community. And you’ll see their degrees, and you’ll note that many of
them began at Queensborough and then went on and, and have done incredible
things for their career, and for this college in return. So, please do take a look at that. I don’t have to tell you that
community college students make up, what, 40 some odd percent of all the students in the
United States studying? They are at a community college. Because we produce the
incredible economic engine for this country, for this
city and state, for sure. So you’ll hear lots of wonderful stories about why people were successful as a result of Queensborough, as a result of having a
degree from Queensborough, so I’m just gonna say to all of you and keep my remarks short, thank you, thank you for committing, for
making this your focus in life to complete an associates
degree at Queensborough. Most of our students go on,
over 80% go on to universities, senior colleges at university, and they are really highly, highly prized by those institutions. So you’ll have a great
experience ahead of you, whether it be at a university
or in the world of work, and I’m gonna turn it
back over so you can meet some real, live examples of why it’s important
to complete your degree. So I wish you all the luck
and I can’t wait to hear and welcome back so many of our alums. Right now here’s, who’s coming up next? Our Vice President for Student
Affairs, Ellen Hartigan. (applause) – Thank you, Doctor Call, and thank you to those of you
who are able to join us here to talk about commit, complete, and compete. So appropriate, and I also want to thank our alumni for coming
back and in a few moments we’re going to hear
from our alumni and I’m saying to each and every
one of you, welcome back. So, to our students, and of course I see a number
of staff members here, which I think it’s so important because we encourage
students day in and day out. Why is it important to
complete the degree? And many, many students as we know, and Doctor Call mentioned,
many students have already signed the pledge form online, many students are aware of this effort that we have undertaken. So let me just share with you,
what are some of the reasons? Students who complete an
associate’s degree can expect to earn $400,000 more in a lifetime than a high school graduate. That would motivate me, I’m
sure, motivate many of you. Unemployment for community
college graduates is typically 30% lower
than for high school grads. New York residents who transfer directly from a SUNY or CUNY two-year college with an associate’s degree, they’re guaranteed entry
to the four-year colleges, very important factor, if you are a graduate
from the two-year program. And, of course, our nation
needs more college graduates to stay competitive. The United States used
to lead the world in the percentage of 25 to 34
year olds with college degrees. Today, we now rank 12th, among 36 developed nations, so, we have to commit, complete, and compete in order for our city, our
state, our nation to thrive. So I want to thank everyone for taking this effort seriously, I want to thank our students
for partnering with us in doing well in school,
so you can continue on with your studies. Again, I want to thank our alumni for taking the time to come back
and show our own students how important it is and
what benefits there are when you complete your degree here, through Queensborough Community College. Doctor Tai, Doctor Svoronos,
thank you so much and, now of course we want
to hear from our alumni, so I ask Doctor Tai if we
want to take it on, next step? Thank you. (applause) – As you can see up here, from the, from the rolling PowerPoint,
we have some wonderful, successful graduates who
couldn’t be with us today, who are in regular touch
to report on some of their magnificent accomplishments. One of the things that, that I said, at a, a Phi Theta Kappa address
that I had to give last year, was that college completion isn’t just about taking
a pledge today, right? It’s about the commitment
that you make every day to personal success. The times that you swing
your legs out of bed to go to class, even
though you’re exhausted, maybe you were up all
night last night studying or maybe you had to work or
take care of a family member, but you’re out there,
you’re in the trenches, and you keep going. So the people that we brought
back to our campus today are people who made that
commitment and saw it through and brought it to a very
successful continuation, and they’re back here today
to tell us something about what they did at Queensborough
and what they’re doing now. I’d like to begin by introducing
Mister Astor Concepcion, who is a graduate from 2010, right? Yes.
(applause) – Good afternoon, everybody,
I’m Astor Concepcion. I presently am a recruiting manager with Robert Half International
in the technology space, and I’m gonna try to
wrap this up very quickly in five minutes, I think I
have five minutes to speak, so. As you can tell, I came
back to school at very, very, very late age. I first attended college
in 1978, Beirut College. Went for two semesters. At that time, the computer boom was taking hold of the country and I was very good at computers and I left school to
pursue my career in IT. After 28 years in IT, I decided to change, I retired from my first career, and now am doing my second career, at Robert Half International. But it brings me back to the story of how I got to Queensborough College. In 2008, when the housing market crashed, I was consulting with my
former company TIAA-CREF, and we were doing a 20 million dollar web center replacement project, and I was a project
manager on that project. Of course, the company had to
lay off all the consultants, I was one of them. With the promise that
they would bring me back, I didn’t wait for the promise, I decided to enroll at
Queensborough Community College, and it was probably the
best choice I’ve ever made in my life. This was a great experience,
I was a student of Doctor Tai and I kinda reminded her,
A student with Doctor Tai. (laughing) I graduated from here with a 3.9 OGPA, did it in about a year and a half, and was accepted at Queens College, and presently still pursuing
my BS in Computer Science, it’s a personal thing I need
to do it for self-satisfaction, not that I need it, I’m doing
very well at Robert Half, and I did very well as an IT
professional for 28 years. But it’s something that I want to do to show my children and my family. Both of my kids are
graduates of a university, my wife’s a doctor, I’m the
only one without a degree. So, to tell you what Doctor
Tai and I spoke about a couple years back, ooh, sorry. And she wanted me to relay to you is, I want to impress upon the
students to stay in school. Finish your degree. And the reason being, if you
go to a four-year college, they’ll convince you to
go to, you know, go to, if you’re not accepted, first of all, into a four-year college,
they’ll tell you, “Go to Queens Community
College like Queensborough, “do about a year, get your grades up, “and then transfer over.” Nice for them. Remember, this is an educational
institution primarily. Underneath that, this is
a financial institution, they need to make revenue here. And colleges are good at
telling you, “Transfer over.” You earn 30 credits here,
you move over there, they knock off 15 credits
and if you have time to burn and money to burn, that’s a good move. But do what I did, I went, spoke with a guidance
counselor at Queens College. She told, I showed her some
of the courses I was takin’ on my computer science trek,
and none of them relayed in the nearest to anything that they were teaching over there, she said, “Those are worthless, we
can’t carry them over.” So I came back, spoke to
my guidance counselor here and changed my major to
liberal arts and science. Completed all my liberal
arts courses and curriculum, went on to Queens College, and
all I had to do there was my core work towards my degree,
which was computer science. No liberal arts courses, no
history, nothing of that nature. So stay in school, the associate’s degree
is a very powerful degree when transferring into
a four-year college. Another thing that Vice
President Kerrigan, I believe. Yes, Hartigan, Hartigan, mentioned. Four-year colleges do
come looking for you, I was sent letters from
Columbia University, Brown University, they wanted me to transfer to their schools. Because of, first, being on
the national honor society and plus the GPA, and
Queensborough’s academic curriculum is very strong. So, stay in school, commit,
complete, and compete, that’s, that’s a good, I like
that, that’s a good slogan. Because we compete out there
in the market, we compete. This, this, this school, this institution, a degree from here is
a very strong degree. It’ll help you get into a
very good four-year college, and set you on your way. So please, stay in school,
do the right thing, get your education, and do what I did, don’t take as long as I’m
taking, but, get it done sooner. Get your four-year degree and move on, and if you can stay in school and get a, a graduate degree, do that as well. Competition out there, and
I’ll tell you from the market right now that I’m dealing with, I’m trying to place people
with PhDs and masters’, they’re competing with
kids right out of college. It is a very tough market out there, so the more education you
have, the better armed you are to compete for any position
that you wanna compete for. A kid with a high school
diploma right now, it’s very tough, it’s very tough for them. And I recommend, when they call me, “How do I get into the technology field?” I tell ’em, “Go back to school.” Go back to school and get educated. You have to compete with
people who are outta work that have multiple degrees. And it’s not a joke, this is real life. So while you’re here, take it seriously, get into your books, dedicate yourself, I know it’s hard, I know you stay up late and you’re tired in the
morning, stay in school. Finish your degree, then transfer. It’s a more powerful degree, you’ll get a better situation
at the four-year college. You won’t have to redo credits, you’ll just work on your core
curriculum for your major, and you can get out faster. So, with that said, I’d like to wish all of you
students the best of luck. Queensborough Community
College is a great institution. I enjoyed my time here, it was short, but, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I met some beautiful
people, and I was, you know, I learned under some great professors and it was a changing experience for me. Thank you.
(applause) – Some people love Queensborough
so much that they can’t tear themselves away. Our next speaker, Natalie Roopchand, came back to Queensborough
and joined our staff. Yep. (applause) – Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Natalie Roopchand, my journey started here at
Queensborough a long time ago. Not too long. I actually came back, as,
this is on the opposite side, I’m now sitting on the side of an, as an administrator instead of a student. Would I have done it any other way? No, actually, Queensborough, I had no idea what I was coming to. Queensborough was chosen
for me because it was a part of what the tradition
was with my family. The choice was definitely
one that was really good. It definitely prepared me for the path that I was gonna take on
when I transferred to, to finish my degree. I actually have a bachelor’s
in international business and human resource management, and I did continue on at Baruch. When I was asked to speak today,
it took me back down a road that I had to probably
visit for a purpose. I thought of the acronym,
commit, complete, and compete, and I thought of what we are
here at Queensborough, and, in terms of the commitment, the faculty and staff
here at Queensborough, we are committed to help our
students complete their degree, it is our goal. You know, it is a part of what we do. The completion process,
we at Queensborough, we always finish what we
start with our students. We definitely make sure that
they achieve their goals. The compete, we give you
that competitive edge to compete out there. I know I certainly walked
away with a competitive edge. Yes, it’s a part of my job
to encourage my students to commit, complete, and
compete with their degree. I guarantee you, if you
complete your degree at Queensborough and you move on, it is definitely the first step for steppin’ out into the workforce, it gives you the groundwork
for what you need to continue. And I remember my days as a student, and I just wanted to run away, I just wanted to finish school, I just wanted to, you know, move on. And I did move on, and
I wanted to come back, and I did come back. And it is always a pleasure
to stand before the students and speak to them, and let
them know at Queensborough, you definitely have the commitment
to finish what you start. We are here to help you. I urge all the students
that are sittin’ out there to be committed to your degree,
be committed to yourself, and just to share with you quickly, this year at the freshman orientation for my business students, I asked my students to walk
away with a formula for success. And it was really interesting, because a part of their formula, each one of them had the word commit. And that, to me, speaks volume. The fact that they made the
commitment to start here at Queensborough, that
means they’re gonna finish. And I told ’em, that’s
the first step to success. I encourage the students
again, I wish you all the best. Please finish the degree, it definitely is a good way to start. And good luck with your future. Thank you.
(applause) – Our next speaker was a,
a Phi Theta Kappa member, and the recipient of one
of the CCTOP scholarships that are awarded by New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education. She’s now working in
the field of education, please welcome Nina Hana. (applause) – Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be invited back. I was here last year and
it was a wonderful turnout, and I’m very honored to have
been invited back this year. My path for higher education
did not begin traditionally. When I was a few years
younger than many of you, I thought I knew everything, so I decided I hated high school and I
didn’t want to go anymore. So I dropped out. Got my GED through the Queensborough GED program many years ago, and I was successful, I got into
St. John’s University. When my friends were all
seniors in high school, I was a freshman in college. And I thought that was great. Unfortunately, I still continued
to think I knew everything, and then I decided to move
out of my parents’ house and work full time and become an adult. That doesn’t go hand-in-hand
with full-time education at 19. I decided to take one semester off, and after working many years doing any number, you know, any
sort of job, I decided, I really miss that one semester, that one semester promise I
made to myself, I regretted it. I did well in real estate for many years, and then like Mister Concepcion said, the economic downturn of
2008, I lost everything. I… Sorry. I realized I couldn’t even
get a secretary’s job, ’cause I didn’t have any sort of a degree. Decided to go back to school, and I wanted to go to Queens College for their education program,
I wanted to be a teacher. They looked at my 11 year old transcript and basically told me, “We don’t think you’re gonna
pass the placement exam, “try Queensborough, they’ll
take you, they have no choice.” So, he basically pissed me
off, excuse my language. (laughing) So after, you know, some
crying and some angry emails, basically saying, “How dare
you take the opportunity away “from a community college
prospective student “to even test into your
school and judging me “on what you think I can
and can’t do when I was 17.” I came here, excelled, maintained a 4.0, became a member of PTK,
like Doctor Tai said. Which turned out to be
the best thing of my life. Everybody always knocks community colleges because they think, just like the director of
admissions at Queens College, he’s like, “Go there, they’ll take you.” I ended up getting a scholarship
to New York University through the Community College
Transfer Opportunity Program. Which was amazing, considering
if you look at my trajectory, high school dropout, 10
years in the work fields, coming back to school as an adult, and pretty much getting
a free ride to NYU. I just graduated this past
May with a Bachelor of Science and Secondary Education, I’m
a social studies teacher. (applause) Thank you. It’s definitely, Queensborough is definitely
something that I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to love
it as much as I did, I didn’t expect to want
to continue to come back and encourage other students to basically follow through with your education. Take the resources that you
have here and run with it. Queensborough and their faculty
and staff, they are amazing. They go above and beyond. When I was in school, years ago, there was nothing like this. And had there been, maybe
I wouldn’t have taken that one semester off, which
turned into 10 years. Continuing your education is
the best thing you can ever do. Not only for your career, but
for your self-satisfaction. When I received that diploma,
about four months ago, my, the joy on my mother’s
face was priceless, it was worth everything. So now I know I can continue to motivate
students, I work with students at at-risk programs. Unfortunately, the teaching department, the teaching field is limited right now, the board of ed is having a hiring freeze, so that’s nothing I
can do about that, but, it’s, it’s very rewarding. Use what you have, use your resources. Commit to your education,
never give up on yourself, and when someone tells you no? To hell with them, do it anyway. (laughing) So, thank you. (applause) – Strong words, but memorable. Our next speaker is the recipient of another kind of scholarship, a national scholarship that was organized by the Kaplan Foundation
to encourage young people who might not have thought
of continuing in college. Her name is Kesha Montgomery,
and she’ll speak to us next. (applause) – Hi, everyone, welcome. It’s good to see everyone here. Nina, you spoke, I swear, we have like, similar footsteps in life. (laughs) ‘Cause my story is so similar. I’m just gonna move this over. I like to say everyone is here
today because they operate on what I call a way out for a way in. A way out for not havin’
a steady-payin’ job, and a way in to a new career. A way out of living in your parents’ house and a way into independence. When I came here at
Queensborough, you know, I just moved out of my mom’s house, I was working two jobs,
Starbucks and teller, and going to school full-time. It was a struggle to support myself, but nonetheless I did it. The faculty here was very nurturing of me. I can tell you that, if it
wasn’t for Doctor Emily Tai, I wouldn’t be here today, ’cause
she really changed my life. While I was takin’, enrolled
in her religion course, it was Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. I was exploring my
religious identity. (laughs) So I wanted to learn more
about it through these course, just to know more about
other religions of the world, and she recommended me for the Kaplan Educational
Foundation scholarship, it was called the Kaplan
Leadership Program. Now, I didn’t even
really take it seriously, because I was like, you know, “Who’s gonna give me 30,000, you know?” I was, had grew up in
the projects of Brooklyn, you know, my mom was a single parent, I came here with a GED, but
today I stand here to you, in front of you as a, I’m a
graduate at Spelman College. In May I finished my BA in economics, with a minor in Japanese
studies, and now– (applause) I now work in, I’m in T Banks
Management Development Program It was really hard, I had to push myself
all throughout Spelman. It was a completely different experience than what I was used
to, but I can say that, at Queensborough, I was
really prepared for it. Like, ’cause, people may
discredit the community college, they say, “You won’t be
prepared for the four-year,” that’s nonsense. When I got to Spelman I
hit the ground running. You know, I didn’t face
any immediate challenges. Maybe, my only challenge was,
probably the social dynamic, but I hurried up and
conquered that hurdle. What else can I say? The faculty here is very nurturing. Like, as Nina said, take
advantage of your resources, leverage them. Doctor Tai, I said I wasn’t
takin’ the scholarship serious, she actually drove from
her home in Long Island to Manhattan to hand them
in my recommendation. So, you know, that shows you
how much the faculty here is invested in you, and
wanna see you succeed, so. You know, take them seriously,
take your classes seriously, everyone here, because
you decided to come, everyone here is a winner. You know, you’re tryin’
to change your future, you’re tryin’ to find
this way out for a way in. You’re tryin’ to, you don’t,
you already have your way in, because you choose to come
here to be successful. So, I, what I can say is,
to wrap this up, you know, work hard and be humble. You know, just don’t let
everything get to you, like. You know, it’s easy when
you’re on the come-up to kinda get a big head, but, just take a step back and
remember where you came from. You know, yeah, always remember that. But thank you.
(applause) – Our fifth speaker is
actually the president of the alumni association,
so when he stands before you, he’s speaking for hundreds of
other Queensborough alumni. And that’s Michael Conciliaro? – Conigliaro.
– Conigliaro, please. (applause) – Good afternoon everyone, and I’d like to thank Doctor
Call and Doctor Hartigan, and all of your for allowing me to speak here in front of you today. And I’d, and I’d just like
to start off by saying that, as the president of
the alumni association, I wanna say that the
comments from Astor, Natalie, Nina, and Kesha is what
makes me proud to be the president of the alumni association, and I hope that in years to come, many of you will be standing up here, telling your stories to people that are gonna be sitting
here today on Completion Day. And similar to what Nina
and what Kesha said, when I was a student here
at Queensborough myself, I was not the stellar student
that I could tell you I became afterwards, but it was what
happened here at Queensborough and the resources that
Queensborough allowed me to utilize that let me turn around and
take grades that were horrendous and turn them around into
grades that were great. And that was through the
tutoring that the students have here at Queensborough that you
should all take advantage of if you’re feeling that you have a class that you’re not doing well in. In addition to the faculty allowing me to take the time to go over things with them that I wasn’t sure of
while I was a student. Now, the important thing
to remember is that Queensborough is the
catalyst for your future. When I went on job interviews, and I had my resume handed out
to these different employers when I was going to work as a paralegal, I went on from Queensborough to St. John’s to complete my bachelor’s
degree in criminal justice, and I also do work at St.
John’s in different programs where I bring students to court and I allow them to see what the day is in the life of what I do, and I’m hoping to do something
similar here at Queensborough where students can decide, with different people who are members of our alumni cabinet in different fields, to allow them to see what
you can do once you graduate from Queensborough and
your four-year school. But what you need to remember
about Queensborough is Queensborough, I can tell
each and every one of you, made me the person I am today. If it weren’t for Queensborough,
you would not be stand, sitting here, listening
to me speak to you today about what I’m telling you. Queensborough allowed me the opportunity at a time in my life when I really didn’t
know what I wanted to do. It then allowed me to
realize what I wanted to do. And I took that opportunity, and once I got my associate’s degree and ultimately my bachelor’s degree, and from there, taking
some time off as well, I have equal sentiments with Astor, that I took time off
before I went to law school because I was working, I got married, and in life you sometimes
have those things in-between. But when you reach a point
in life when you know that what you learned in Queensborough and where you go to your four-year school, and you use that to then decide what you wanna do in the future, you should always remember one thing, no matter where you go, no
matter what jobs you have, your roots come from Queensborough. You have to realize the
beauty of that, see. When I walk on this campus
after all these years, it brings me back to the
time when I went here, and it should bring you
all back to the time, in years to come, when you’re here. But what I hope that each
one of you will, will, will realize is that, you shouldn’t just consider Queensborough
someplace where you are now. And I want this very loud and clear. You should remember that
Queensborough is something that you should consider as part of your life and your future moving forward, because what you wanna do is appreciate what you’re going to
get from this education, you wanna appreciate what you’re gonna get from the people here, and you wanna take that into your life, and you wanna use that
to better yourselves. But you should always remember that you should not forget your roots. These are your roots, where
you’re coming from today. And you should be able
to give back to those. So I encourage you all, post-graduation, to consider joining the alumni association and giving back to the
school, and doing things and as many different
things that we have planned that we’re going to do with
the alumni association, and we’d like you all to
consider being a part of that. And I can say that, if you, if you think about what you
can give back while you’re here and you use that now when you
go into your future endeavors and you go into the job world
and you hand in your resume and they say, “Where did you go?” And you say, “I went to
Queensborough and I went to here “and I went to here.” You should be proud of the fact, proud, to say that you came here. Because a lot of times you’ll hear, “Oh, so-and-so went to
Harvard, he’s a genius.” Well you know what? Look at that board. Look at those people up there. All of those people went here,
and they’re also very smart and they’re geniuses, so I don’t
care where you go to school it’s what you wanna do,
where you wanna go to school, and what you wanna take
with you education, to go out there and compete. And you wanna commit, you wanna complete, and you wanna compete with everybody. And I wanna say thank you
for giving me the opportunity here today, and I wish
you all the best of luck. (applause) – Just to piggyback on that a little bit, remember that we’re all
part of a family here, at Queensborough. The reason why Doctor
Svoronos and I were able to pass along the names of some
of our most successful students for that PowerPoint is
because people stay in touch. That’s the glory of email. And any of you who are
members of Phi Theta Kaapa know that you get emails
from me all the time, it’s a little bit like
swatting at flies, but, in between all of that
there’s always the opportunity to reach out when you
need a recommendation, when you need some feedback on something, we’re here to help you. And across this campus, there are people who are here to help you. They’re in the Writing Center,
they’re in the tutoring, they’re in the counseling office, and you should never be shy about asking for the help that you need. That’s part of a commitment to
complete your degree as well. Because some things
will come to you easily, but some things will require more effort. And that’s what we’re here for. If you have your pledge in front of you, I’d like you to be ready
to recite your pledge. Ready? Repeat after me. I am a CUNY Queensborough
Community College student. – [Audience] I am a CUNY Queensborough Community College student. – And I am committed.
– And I am committed. – To completing my associate’s degree. – [Audience] To completing
my associate’s degree. – Or certificate program.
– Or certificate program. – I will also seek out advisement. – [Audience] I will also
seek out advisement. – On course selection.
– On course selection. – Career planning.
– Career planning. – And support services.
– And support services. – That will help me reach my goal. – [Audience] That will
help me reach my goal. – Sign the contract.
(laughing) (applause) This is the first day of the rest of your associate’s degree. Good luck to all of you, and remember, we’re always here for you. (applause)

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