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York College celebrates 46th commencement

By Patrick Donachie

Graduates of York College’s class of 2016 gathered under a massive tent on the field outside the school’s Health and Physical Education complex as family, friends and other well-wishers withstood a steady rain to celebrate the class’ commencement ceremony.

The graduating class was 1,030 strong, with 65 birth nations represented as well as 50 languages. Class valedictorian Kalu Eunice Udensi was born in Nigeria. In her address, she praised her mother, who was watching from Nigeria via the web. Udensi said her mother showed her “how to live a life full of positivity and hope for the future.”

“I am proud and honored to be an example for all Nigerians, all immigrants, all women and all students,” she said.

The commencement speaker was Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was introduced by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), who talked about Castro’s history on the San Antonio City Council, as well as his time as San Antonio’s mayor.

Castro promised to follow the advice of the Greek poet Horace and make his own advice “brief.”

“It gets harder to live a life filled with hope, rather than a life filled with cynicism,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t give into that.”

He said the students could console themselves in times of frustration about the state of the world by looking at the strides the United States had made in recent history. Castro said that in 1976, when York College first opened its doors, there were only 20 people of color in Congress. Today, he said, that number was 91. He acknowledged, however, that incremental gains did not erase the issues the country continues to face.

“Too many neighborhoods remain segregated by race and income,” he said. “Too many children see their dreams limited by the zip code where they grew up.”

In his remarks to the graduates, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke about federal legislation he authored that allows families that make less than $180,000 per year to take a $2,500 credit per student on their federal taxes to offset the financial burden of attending college. He then told the audience he had one more gift to impart, and noted that the rain was expecting to increase throughout the day. He pointed to the students’ families, many of whom were huddled under umbrellas in the rain.

“You want your family to keep standing in the rain?” he asked, and held up a series of papers stapled together. “You want to see this nice speech I prepared?”

He took the paper and tore it in two. The crowd roared in approval.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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