PCCC Celebrates 50th Commencement
Passaic County Community College celebrated its 50th Commencement on June 13, the first in-person
ceremony in two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. PCCC faculty, administrators, and staff, along with
guests of the graduates, gathered at the Main Campus in Paterson to witness the Class of 2022 make
history as both the pandemic and the golden anniversary grads of the College
“It’s a big deal you got here tonight,” said Dr. Steven Rose, president of PCCC. “You are the first
graduating class to go through a pandemic.”
Dr. Rose cited other firsts in Commencement 2022: the first Associate in Fine Arts degrees were
awarded to two students; the first group of Early College students also received associate degrees; and
the valedictorian was, for the first time, an Early College student.
The president announced that 676 graduates received 791 degrees and certificates and that the grads
hailed from 36 different countries, represented by the flags that served as a backdrop to the dais.
In another first at this milestone Commencement, the national anthem was offered instrumentally only,
on violin, by music professor Nadya Kourani in a heartfelt presentation that was a poignant reminder of
the struggles and loss experienced in the past two years.
The valedictorian, 17-year-old Daniela Velazquez, graduated from PCCC with a GPA of 3.99, just days
before her high school graduation. “We did what we had to do to reach our version of success,” said
Daniela in her pre-recorded message, referring to the unique challenges, such as Zoom classes, her
graduating class faced in the pandemic years. Confessing that she sometimes experienced ‘imposter
syndrome” and a lack of faith in her ability while in high school, Daniela assured her fellow grads that
“We are in control of our own destiny.” She will continue her education at Columbia University.
Congratulating the Class of 2022, Mr. Dennis F. Marco, chairman of the PCCC Board of Trustees, noted
“You have done this during a global pandemic. We have no doubt of your future success.”
U.S. Senator Cory Booker, in a pre-recorded speech, congratulated the graduates for their “grit and
guts,” and urged them, despite the challenges in the world, to “be one of those people that sees hope.”
“The world needs the best of you,” he added.
Taking the microphone, Ashely Diaz, a much-honored graduate, said to her fellow grads, “I stand here in
awe. We made it.” A student who overcame significant adversity, Ashely was named to the 2022 All-
State New Jersey Academic Team. She is also the recipient of the highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke
Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Ashely will transfer to the NYU’s Silver School of Social Work to
complete her bachelor’s degree.
With enthusiastic and forceful words, the Honorable Bruce James, president of the Passaic County Board
of Commissioners, commended the graduates not only for their academic achievement, but also for
demonstrating American ideals, especially in today’s divisive political and social climate. “You are all
getting along. This is what America should do,” he declared to cheers from the audience.
Commissioner James called PCCC “the Harvard of community colleges,” praising the graduation rate,
programs offered, and many opportunities for students and the community. “Education is the key to the
survival of America,” he said to the grads, adding, “It’s going to be your job to help America survive.”
Similarly, Dr. Aaron Fichtner, President of the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges urged the
graduates to be proactive in promoting education. “You had the faith to take that first step, and you
have proven you can do anything you set your mind to,” he said. “Now, think of someone else you can
encourage to take that first step.”
After all degrees and certificates were conferred, Dr. Rose delivered his charge to the Class of 2022.
“You may think this is the end, but this is where success starts,” he said, reminding them that the
credential they earned “opens a lot of doors for you.”