York Commencement Featuring HUD Sec’y Inspires Graduates and Guests

York College’s 46th Commencement Exercises included a stirring keynote address by United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Honorable Julian Castro.

Introduced by Congressman Gregory Meeks, Secretary Castro wowed the audience of 1,030 graduates plus nearly 4000 guests on the college’s sprawling athletic field.

“There are so many harsh realities in our world…so many injustices that we see or hear about, that it can sometimes make you want to throw your hands up and say: ‘You know what? I'm just going to worry about myself,’” said Castro, a rising political star.

“Ladies and gentlemen, don't give in. Rise above that sense of hopelessness and pessimism. Always remember that your acts of service, no matter how big or small, can make a difference for those around you. And if you ever lose faith in others, just remind yourself of how far we've already traveled as a nation, and as a people.”

Dr. Marcia V. Keizs, president of York College, certainly appreciated the sentiment expressed at the June 3, 2016 event.

“We were very inspired by Secretary Castro’s stirring address,” said President Keizs. “He is a delightful mix of talent and grace; and serves as a wonderful example to our graduates. Commencement 2016 will go down as one of our most rewarding and it is thanks in part to Secretary Castro’s generous participation.”

In addition to the audience in and around the enormous graduation tent, people across the globe were also able to watch family members cross the stage during the ceremony. That was the case for the mother of valedictorian, Eunice Udensi, who viewed the event live from Nigeria with the aid of technology enabled by the college.

Ms. Udensi made several references to her devoted mother and extended greetings to her in Igbo, a native tongue: “Kaa Mummy, Imaghu,” she said, to the mom she has not seen since leaving for New York four years ago. She also expressed gratitude to York and the many faculty members who influenced her.

“Each time I learn and understand something new, I am motivated to apply that to myself,” said Udensi, a Pharmaceutical Science major, whose father, siblings and other family members were present. “This is one of the main reasons I came to York College. I wanted to be in an environment where I felt at home and comfortable enough to acquire new knowledge.”

The valedictorian added that the college itself motivated her.

“This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of York College,” Udensi noted. “York College, to some people, is the small-sized [college] located in Jamaica, Queens. To outsiders, York College is just another branch of City University of New York. However, to me, York College is an inspiration….”

Among the many highlights of the day was the arrival of Psychology major, Yavette Adams, who was wheeled across the stage to accept her diploma and shake the president’s hand.

“Yavette has been coping with a debilitating illness, but insisted that nothing would keep her from her graduation,” said Dr. Donna Chirico, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and one of Adams’ former professors. “She literally was taken from her hospital bed and brought to the ceremony to enjoy that moment.”

United States Senator Charles Schumer and Councilman I. Daneek Miller were also on hand to congratulate the graduates. 

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