York College celebrates 54th Commencement, welcomes class of 2024 as CUNY alumni

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Photo courtesy of York College

The York College Class of 2024 celebrated their academic success as the latest CUNY alums to join the ranks on Thursday, May 30, marking the institution’s historic 54th Commencement Ceremony.

Approximately 1,1,041 students flocked to the UBS Arena on Long Island in their full academic regalia with family, friends, and colleagues nearby.

The communal celebration was a joyous event filled with inspiring tales of student triumphs in the face of adversity. The gathering provided valuable lessons imparted by a diverse group of accomplished leaders in their respective fields. The event also served as a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing education as a transformative tool for personal and collective growth.

Photo courtesy of York College
Photo courtesy of York College

One of many success stories Interim President Claudia Schrader shared with guests at the commencement ceremony included that of 64-year-old Pamela Rider.

Rider’s journey to achieving her college degree began in 1997 at John Jay College, another City University of New York college. Rider faced the challenges of balancing the demands of home with education and decided to drop out three years later.

In 2007, Rider returned to York College in Jamaica to complete her education — earning her degree in journalism.

Nelsy Moody Pierre, graduating with a degree in Biology, is making her way to the Yale School of Medicine for a 10-month program, preparing her to apply for continued education in biomedical sciences.

Victoria Franklin and William Nelson Murphy earned their Masters in Social Work on commencement day, with the added achievement of getting their work on imposter syndrome published in a medical journal.

​​After 35 years in Corporate America, Aubrey Williams decided to return to college to earn his Master’s in Social Work. At 57, he was accepted into the program and was among the many graduates.

In her extended remarks to the Class of 2024, Schrader discussed each student’s achievements and emphasized the value of education at all stages of life.

“Your degree is not a piece of paper that you put in a frame and hang on the wall. You have to use it. It is a tool,” Schrader said.

Schrader also recognized Jean Walner Antoine and Adeline Antoine, parents of four children who received their bachelor’s degrees from York College. At commencement, their daughter Rebecca, returning to York a second time, received her Master of Social Work degree.

The continued commitment from the Antoine family also underscored Schrader’s asks of the Class of 2024 to use their degrees to help give back to the community they serve.

“Use it to address and alleviate the issues we are experiencing in our communities. Use it to tear down walls of hate and intolerance and build bridges of respect. Use it to elevate yourself into positions of leadership and positive influence,” Schrader said.

Om Shrestha, the Class of 2024’s Valedictorian, exemplified the best in the institution’s academic performance, using the school’s resources to their fullest potential. However, the achievement didn’t come without struggle.

Shrestha spoke on his personal journey from Nepal to the United States and his professional experience as a nursing student. He reminisced about the first couple of days leading into what would become his academic success.

“I can still remember the day when I was hesitant about starting college,” Shrestha said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect next, but it was you who took my hand and walked with me to college for that first advisement session.”

Shrestha humbly thanked his classmates, especially his wife, for their everlasting support in his remarks.

Additional commencement speakers included Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, City Council Member Nantasha Williams, CUNY Trustee Michael Arvanites and video remarks from CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez.

Photo courtesy of York College

A final lesson for the Class of 2024 arrived from the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Dr. Jelani Cobb.

Cobb serves as the Dean of the Columbia Journalism School and is the recipient of a Peabody Award for his 2020 PBS Frontline film “Whose Vote Counts?”

As an educator, editor, reporter and even political analyst for MSNBC since 2019, Cobb reassured the crowd not to give into imposter syndrome.

“At some point in your life, you will undoubtedly encounter people with the benefits of advantages you have not had. People who move through the world with the tailwind of privilege,” said Cobb.

One question Cobb encouraged graduates to ask themselves, at their most insecure and lowest points, in places unknown: “If this person had to go through what I had gone through, would they have gone as far as I have gotten?”

Good luck and congratulations, Class of 2024.