Miami Dade College’s Class of 2013 Represent the ‘Dream Factory’
Miami, May 8, 2013 -
There was laughter and tears, bouncing beach balls, caps in the air, and glow sticks spinning to pulsating music. Miami Dade College (MDC) commencement ceremonies are grand events. But nothing is more impressive than the collective energy of more than 13,000 MDC graduates who received their diplomas at five ceremonies on Saturday, May 4.
This year’s graduates hail from 185 different countries and speak 95 languages, representing various demographics, cultural backgrounds and walks of life. As MDC graduates, they form part of a legacy that spans more than five decades.
“Today, we are the product of a system that is dedicated toward being what our College President, Dr. Padrón, calls ‘a dream factory,’” said North Campus Student Government President Anthony Correa.
One student’s dream was cut short, but not forgotten. North Campus presented a posthumous diploma to Miami-Dade School Board member, Susie Castillo, in honor of her late daughter, Andrea, who was studying education and passed away last fall in a car accident.
At the Kendall Campus ceremony, U.S. Congressman and MDC alumnus Joe Garcia reminded graduates that the rest of the country is looking at them to lead the way in immigration reform. After all, it was a group from MDC who organized the DREAM Act march to Washington.
“I want to note that you are part of the most diverse graduating class in American history. You are an example to the rest of the country as they look forward to see the power of diverse cultures and successful immigration,” Congressman Garcia said.
MDC students are leaders in so many ways. Many are children of immigrants, or the first in their families to obtain a college degree, or both. Most juggle school work with jobs and raising children.
“We are the scrappers, we are the fighters,” said the President and CEO of Jackson Health System and MDC alumnus Carlos Migoya. “We are the ones who maybe didn’t have a college fund, maybe didn’t have every opportunity handed to us on a silver platter.”
Many of the programs at the Medical Campus are intense and require students to make a full-time commitment to school.
“It is surreal that I have gotten to this point. It’s been a long journey full of sacrifices, but I have enjoyed every moment of it. Now, I get to embark on a life with a rewarding career in nursing,” said Daymi Ramirez Aguilar, who earned an associate degree in nursing.
Chairman of the National Council of La Raza Board of Directors, Jorge A. Plasencia, who co-founded Amigos for Kids when he was just 17, highlighted the importance of hard work and giving back as he spoke to graduates of the Homestead and InterAmerican Campuses. He too is an MDC alumnus.
“I leave you with six words that have helped me. Work hard. Be grateful. Give back,” Plasencia said.
Some were so eager to start their new lives, they couldn’t wait. North Campus graduate Rafael Burdieu made MDC history as the first student to make a marriage proposal during commencement to girlfriend Keyla Cortes, amid cheers from fellow graduates.
It was an act that echoed the words of MDC Professor and President of the United Faculty of Miami Dade College Mark Richards, who addressed graduates at the Hialeah and Wolfson Campuses ceremony. He urged them to remain involved in the world and the things that matter most.
“Look up and see an autistic child who needs a helping hand. Look up from your smartphone. Look up and say to people, I love you,” Prof. Richards.
Bill Diggs, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, opened his commencement speech with an inspiring poem. He shared his humble beginnings and reminded graduates to stay determined when the road gets rocky.
“The thing you always have to understand is that life is difficult, life is hard. Sometimes it’s not fair, but always focus on the one thing that reminds you of who you are. And that’s determination and drive…all it takes is all you’ve got,” Diggs said.
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