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Health Education Major Selected Valedictorian for Class of 2023

From Jamaica West Indies to Jamaica, New York, Lydia Chamberlain came and earned the coveted title of Valedictorian of the York College Class of 2023.

Provost Derrick Brazill recently announced the names of the valedictorian and salutatorian of this year’s class; and Ms. Chamberlain has the singular honor of speaking on behalf of her fellow-graduates from the podium of UBS Arena in Hempstead, Long Island, on June 1.

But how did this modest woman, who began her York journey in 2019 accomplish this academic feat? Rich values instilled by devoted parents and extended family in her rural community of Jamaica, was one important start, she says.

“I grew up in a household with both parents and four younger siblings,” said Chamberlain. My parents taught us to respect people and their property, especially the old, and have self-respect. In addition, they taught us to be kind, cooperative and obedient to persons in authority; therefore, as children, we tried to live up to positive morals and values. My parents also stressed the value of education, telling their children that education was the way to success.”

Chamberlain said that although their nuclear family was large, there was also a mandate to share outside of it.

“Although, there were seven of us in the household, there were times when there were other relatives and acquaintances, that my mother would offer food and shelter until they got their own place,” she said. “[Hence, I was taught to be helpful and consider the needs of others.”

But it wasn’t all giving and helping. There was time for past-times and cultural enrichment as well.

“My father would tell us "Anancy Stories" at bedtime, which taught us to look out for the tricks that people play on others,” said Chamberlain. “At family gatherings, we would sing and dance to reggae music, calypso, and folk songs. Growing up, I was naturally curious about my environment and actively seek out information on a number of things to do, including planting my own garden.”

The striver arrived in New York leaving a successful teaching career in Jamaica. But without clear guidance as to how to get recertified in New York, she decided now would be a good time to train in a different subject area and relaunch her career. With that she enrolled at York College majoring in Health Education.

Professor Reinold McNickle, one of Chamberlain’s mentors, is excited for his student and for the department on a whole.

"It was my great pleasure to have Ms. Chamberlain as a student in Measurement & Evaluation during the Spring of 2022,” said Professor McNickle. “Of her many fine qualities three stand out. The first two are related, her poise and compassion for her fellow students. Ms. Chamberlain often shared her command of difficult material with her classmates; and her ability to follow instructions provided by a rubric. Bringing these qualities to her professional career will without any doubt lead her to be a dedicated and gifted health educator. Her students and clients will enjoy a rich learning experience."

Chamberlain currently works as a substitute teacher in the New York City public school system, from K through 12 as needed. With her experience and dedication, another professor interviewed for this has high hopes for her future as well.

“Of all the students I have taught, I have the highest confidence in Ms. Lydia Chamberlain,” said Dr. Colin Pennington, who teaches in the Department of Health & Human Performance. “She will be a high impact educator at any level she chooses. She possesses a mature worldview, and, perhaps most importantly, a caring personality inclusive of compassion and a high standard for herself. I am extraordinarily proud of her.”

Dr. Pennington believes Chamberlain’s trajectory is limitless.

“I do not believe Lydia set out to be a leader; rather her leadership quality is a function of her personality and character,” said Pennington. “With natural academic instincts, she possesses a proclivity for advocacy. Although I do not want to deprive the PK-12 community of her service, I could see her achieving success in ‘solution-oriented’ scholarship as a member of the professoriate.”

The valedictorian says that in time she does intend to pursue her education all the way to a doctorate degree in Mathematics Education. Congratulations and best wishes to this impressive graduate!