Turning the tassel
Alexandra de Armas
When Sahel Alizadea arrived in the United States from Iran in 2006 she didn’t know a word of English.
But she promised herself that she would get an education.
Four years later, Alizadea, made good on that promise and was one of 1,042 students who participated in the commencement ceremonies for Miami Dade College’s North and West campuses at the BankUnited Center on May 1.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to graduation,” said Alizadea, a 24-year-old biology major, who is scheduled to complete her studies at MDC later this summer. “I was very doubtful and extremely scared. But I’m here, graduating with honors, I made it.”
More than 10,000 MDC students participated in seven separate graduation ceremonies this past May.
Former President Bill Clinton, the keynote speaker at the North and West campuses' graduation ceremonies, lauded MDC for its diversity. The College has students from 182 countries, and leads the nation in awarding degrees to Hispanics and African Americans.
“I thought that this institution, as much as any college in America, symbolized our future and today I feel that more strongly than ever,” Clinton said. “Ninety six percent of the associate degree holders last year got a job in their field of study within a year in a terrible, terrible economy. This place works. It works for you. It works for America.”
Clinton acknowledged that a lot of the graduates at MDC faced great odds getting to graduation. More than half of the students at MDC are first-generation college students, and more than 60 percent are low-income.
“This is a big deal to almost every one of you because it was not an easy road,” Clinton said. “Not for you, not for your families, not for the others that helped you.”
Shandricka Thomas, an elementary education major, is one such student. Thomas is the first in her family to graduate.
“It is an amazing accomplishment. I am honored and I truly feel like a role model for my two younger siblings,” Thomas said. “Gratefully my parents have been very supportive in my educational career.”
Two MDC North Campus students received special honors at graduation.
Biology student Julia Martinez, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, was awarded the North Campus District Board of Trustees Scholarship, a $5,000 award.
Martinez plans to attend Cornell University.
And political science student, Linda Rodriguez received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship — a $60,000 award. Hundreds of students compete for the scholarship nationwide each year.
Rodriguez, who graduated from MDC with a 3.94 GPA, served as the deputy head delegate for the Model United Nations team at the North Campus while working two jobs and maintaining a full class load in the rigorous Honors College. She plans to attend Georgetown University this fall.
“As a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, I get to fulfill my dreams of obtaining the absolute best education possible,” Rodriguez said. “What's even better is the opportunity that awaits after all of the schooling - the opportunity of empowering others by sharing all that I have learned and encouraging them to never let go of their dreams. This is my source of happiness.”
Rose Davilmar, an adjunct professor in the school of business at MDC, found her own source of happiness at graduation, seeing her students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.
“They are all phenomenal students and the fact that they have taken the time to study, shows their dedication to their future,” Davilmar said. “Like former President
Clinton said, we are the business of the future, and we invest in them and we expect a lot from them in return.”
North Campus President Dr. José Vicente agreed.
“This graduation is the culminating event for some and career markers for others,” Vicente said. “This milestone is certainly one that generates great pride.”
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