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Dreams Come True for Nearly 14,000 Miami Dade College Students April 29 and 30

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Miami, April 20, 2011 - They come from all over the world, from countries as close as Canada and Mexico and those as far away as Eritrea and Bangladesh, Moldova and Japan. Representing more than a hundred countries, nearly 14,000 Miami Dade College (MDC) students will take one step closer toward making their dreams come true when they receive college degrees at five commencement ceremonies April 29 and 30. Graduates will hear from several renowned keynote speakers, including President Barack Obama, State Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida The HonorableWifredo “Willy” Ferrer, Esq., Michelle Cooper of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks.

Meet some of this year’s stellar graduates:

With a passion for becoming a “global citizen,” conducting research, raising awareness and promoting preventive medicine to help women, children and minorities all over the world, Hira Shabbir, a student at the North Campus, is a trailblazer-in-the-making. Her dream is to obtain a doctorate in public health research from Johns Hopkins University, making her the first woman in her family to extensively pursue an education. A student in the Honors College, Shabbir participated in the Bridges to the Future program and launched the International Relief Leadership Project to raise money and supplies when a flood ravaged parts of her family’s native Pakistan.

Biomedical Engineering major Rolando Esparza also has his sights set on a career at Johns Hopkins University, where he would like to teach and work at their hospital. Having arrived from Nicaragua just two years ago, the InterAmerican Campus student quickly applied himself to his studies, including learning English, and was accepted into the Honors College. His motto is that there is no such thing as good luck, luck is planning well ahead. To that end, his goal is to attend either Harvard or MIT, followed by medical school. Everything he has done in recent years, including completing 400 hours volunteering with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, has been with that goal in mind.

With the University of Minnesota, which has the third-ranked chemical engineering program in the country, in the near future, Anthony Diaz has come a long way from his native Venezuela. The chemical engineering major from the Wolfson Campus did not think a college education would be a possibility until his dedication earned him a place in the Honors College. While at MDC, Diaz volunteered for the Florida Breast Health Initiative, going to low-income neighborhoods to provide medical information to those in need. He would like to pursue a doctorate in nuclear physics or chemical engineering and is contemplating working for NASA or the Air Force Research lab or possibly teaching and doing research at a major university.

For identical twins Vanessa and Veronica Garcia, the West Campus is a second home they will greatly miss. As they each spread their wings and separate for the first time in their lives to attend different universities, the sisters look at their time at MDC as one of incredible growth that has prepared them for the journey ahead. Vanessa, an Exceptional Student Education major, attended many leadership conferences and service learning events and credits the college with helping her develop leadership skills. Veronica is a psychology major and served as Secretary in the Student Government Association. The encouragement she received from professors to explore new horizons is what prompted her to stray from her comfort zone and continue her studies away from home at the University of Central Florida.

Combining ambition with compassion, Homestead Campus student Vanessa Cordero dreams of running a 24-hour animal hospital that is affordable and also serves large animals. The animal lover has received a scholarship to Colorado State University, ranked second in the nation for veterinary medicine. During her time at MDC, she has volunteered at the Humane Society in North Miami Beach and at Monkey Jungle. Having shadowed veterinarians, she understands she is in for a challenging career but finds great satisfaction in helping sick animals get healthy again.    

MDC students show determination leads to success. Herman Sanchez says that his physical challenges are what motivate him to keep striving to achieve his dreams. The Kendall Campus accounting major is confined to a wheelchair due to spina bifida, which he believes makes him a stronger person. In addition to maintaining excellent grades, Sanchez is an avid wheelchair tennis player and has competed at an international level. He is also a member of Phi Beta Lambda. His ultimate goal is to become a certified public accountant.

It was her love for her daughters that pushed Odelkis Rivera to return to school. Wondering how she could be a good example without a high school diploma or college degree, she earned her GED and enrolled at the Hialeah Campus. She became a stand-out student who will earn her degree in elementary education. The single mother is proud to have overcome adversity and is happy to have her daughters share in her accomplishments.

Dedication to a dream is the driving force behind Medical Center Campus student Arturo Fernandez Lopez’s success. He arrived from Cuba seven years ago speaking no English and worked cleaning houses. But he dreamed of a career in medicine, and moved from Naples to Miami to enroll at MDC. The physician assistant major has earned his degree while working a full-time job and has maintained exceptional grades. He says he is happiest when he makes a diagnosis and prescribes treatment, and looks forward to continuing his studies at MDC, the place he believes has been most welcoming to him. 


Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin,
ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, or genetic information.
Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.