Two-time Valedictorian Heads to Ivy League
Daniela Velazquez was named valedictorian of the Class of 2022. Twice. Daniela delivered the
valedictory address June 13 at the 50 th Commencement for Passaic County Community College
(PCCC). She will also serve as valedictorian of her June 23 high school graduation from Passaic
Preparatory Academy (PPA).
The Passaic resident is one of ten graduating PPA students in the Early College program, which
enables high school students to achieve an associate’s degree while also working toward their
high school diploma.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Daniela when she learned she would be valedictorian at two
commencements. In a month of milestones, she also turns 18 three days after her PCCC
Daniela will receive her Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts/Humanities with highest
honors. A member of the National Honor Society at PPA and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor
Society at PCCC, Daniela graduates with a 3.99 GPA and plans to continue her education, on
scholarship, at Columbia University, where she will double major in psychology and film
“Ever since I was very young, I’ve been interested in movies and the process of making movies,”
explains Daniela. In high school, she co-directed a video for a project called Teen Summit that
took second place at the Montclair Theatre Night Awards.
Daniela developed a strong theater background in high school, participating as both an actor and
director. “I discovered that I really like directing,” she says. She served as student representative
for her high school’s theater pathway, is a member of the International Thespian Society, an
honor society for middle and high school students who participate in theater programs, and was
previously accepted into the prestigious Paper Mill Playhouse Adopt-a-School program.
Last year Daniela received the Youth Appreciation Optimist Award, given to young people who
embody the Optimists Creed for positive living and commitment to self- and community
improvement. She has a broad career goal to improve life and opportunity for low-income
individuals and families. “Enabling them to access better mental health resources is just one
example of what I hope to achieve,” she says.
She believes her double major in psychology and film will enable her to find creative ways to tell
the stories of people who are underserved and to find solutions that uplift and empower them.
The younger daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, Daniela will be the first in her family to go
to a four-year university. In fact, the young scholar had to explain the meaning of GPA and
valedictorian to her parents. “When they understood, they told me they were proud of me,” she
Though excited about going to Columbia and experiencing life New York, Daniela says she is
very nervous to be moving away from her family, especially her sister, whom she calls “my best
An advocate for Early College, Daniela says, “It’s an amazing opportunity that is helpful for
low-income students and their families. I’m grateful that my high school participated.”
One of three students in her high school voted to have the most school spirit, Daniela gives a
shoutout to Kimberly, Brian, and the women in the Early College Program. “I cannot express
how grateful I am to have had them throughout this chapter in my life.”
She was also named most likely to become president someday. If the prediction comes true, both
PCCC and PPA can boast that a POTUS graduated in their Class of 2022.