By Sadef Ali Kully
Thousands of family, friends and faculty members celebrated CUNY York College’s 45th commencement with over 1,000 graduates May 29 at the York College Performing Arts Center in downtown Jamaica.
The keynote speaker was NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who spoke to graduates about what to expect in life and how to deal with life’s curveballs. DiNapoli gave graduates three main pieces of advice, “The first: If you fall, get back up. The second: Do what is right—if you witness something cruel or an atrocity, speak up. And the third: Be generous. There isn’t a person in this world that doesn’t owe someone something. So give back.”
DiNapoli followed his speech with a request for graduates to turn around towards family, friends and loved ones and thank them. The graduates turned around and gave their loved ones a round of applause.
Provost Panayiotis Meleties then introduced Amina Sutherland, distinguished student for the graduating class of 2015.
A business major, Sutherland was born and raised in Guyana. She came to the U.S. almost eight years ago with the purpose of educating herself and making something of herself for her family.
In her junior year at York College, married and pregnant, Sutherland had her baby eight weeks earlier than expected and the baby ended up in the pre-natal unit. Sutherland and her husband struggled with shifts at the hospital, while both still worked and she tried to make it to classes to maintain her 3.9 grade-point average.
On graduation day, Sutherland announced that they had a happy healthy baby girl, “She is a bubbly 15-month-old baby girl who is driving us crazy.” She reminded the graduating class about what a mentor once said to her, “Tough situations do not last but tough people do.”
There were two other commencement ceremonies that took place at the college later in the day.
York College is known for its liberal arts curriculum and has more than 40 other major disciplines. York opened its doors in 1967 in a rented space at the Oakland Jewish Center in Bayside and moved to its Jamaica campus in the 1980s. Today, York College students are a cross section of the city’s diverse population, representing at least 50 countries, from Algeria to Uzbekistan, and speaking over 37 languages, according to the college.