By Rebecca Henely
Coming from more than 100 different countries and many walks of life, Queensborough Community College’s class of 2012 received their diplomas to the delight of their parents and professors Friday.
“I love it. I love this school,” said graduate Grahn Cooledge, a 26-year-old Kew Gardens resident. “It’s been really helpful to me. It’s really grown me up.”
The ceremony took place at the athletic field of the college, at 222-05 56th Ave. in Bayside, and featured not only distinguished speakers such as Borough President Helen Marshall, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), but also a bringing together of the past and present as students from Queensborough’s first graduating class in 1962 returned for the commencement.
“We are so proud of you graduating today,” said Alexandra Tarasko, a nursing professor at Queensborough. “We know what you went through, all our exams and papers, and we know you had outside responsibilities.”
The commencement speaker for the event was state Education Commissioner Dr. John King, who applauded the perseverance of the graduates and encouraged them to become mentors to the younger generation.
“I am inspired by you and I am inspired by what you have and will achieve for our own city and state,” King said.
Interim President Diana Bova said the class of 2012’s nearly 2,000 graduates hail from 129 countries and speak 99 different native languages. Six of the graduates were also veterans.
Hogan Levermann, 52, of Ridgewood, lost his leg in the Iraq War and accepted his diploma for his associate degree in applied science. He is currently attending Queens College for his bachelor’s degree.
“I always tell the kids to stay in school,” Levermann said, referring to his 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. “I try to be a role model for them.”
One of the other many speakers at the event was Oluwadamisi Atanda, who graduated as part of the Phi Theta Kappa honors society and won the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award for outstanding college and community leadership.
Atanda, who came to America from Nigeria in 2010 and now lives in Springfield Gardens, said he will be going to City College for a bachelor’s degree in political science and international affairs. He wants to work with the United Nations and help solve the political instability in his home nation.
“I’m very thankful,” Atanda said of graduating. “It’s been hard but finally I’m here.”
Other award-winning students included Tatiana Koverina, Shuaib Uddin, Dayaretnage Patriana Senaratna, Lee-Kon Chen and Anais Wong, who won two prizes. Dr. Eduardo Marti, now vice chancellor for CUNY’s two-year colleges and the former president of Queensborough, won the Presidential Medal, given to individuals who have long commitments to community colleges.
Paulette Kohane, 90, visited the graduation as part of the pioneer class and said she found it wonderful. Kohane, a survivor of the Holocaust, said Queensborough gave her a chance to return to college in her late 30s that she would not have had back in Europe.
“Here anything is possible,” Kohane said. “It’s magnificent.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.