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Hudson Valley Community College Commencement Scheduled for Saturday

CONTACT: Sarah Boggess (518) 629-8071; beeper 342-4905

FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Thursday, May 16, 2002

Note: If a member of the media wishes to interview any of the students profiled in this advisory, please contact Sarah Boggess by noon Friday to set up a time and place to meet with the graduate on Saturday.

Hudson Valley Community College will graduate its 48th class in commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18. Commencement will be held in the McDonough Sports Complex, on the Hudson Valley campus in Troy – faculty and students will assemble at 8:30 a.m., the processional will begin at 8:50 a.m., and the ceremony will begin at 9 a.m.

Approximately 1,450 individuals, including 48-year-old Joseph Vanags Sr. of Albany, a former truck driver who is changing careers to be a social studies teacher, will graduate this year.

Vanags will graduate with an Individual Studies degree. He has been accepted into the secondary education program at The College of Saint Rose and plans to start there in the fall. At Hudson Valley, he had his poetry published in the campus literary magazine and served as president of the college's History Club. \"It\'s been a tough, arduous two and a half years, but I\'m happy to be graduating. I like the energy of the campus here and the energy that the kids here have for their work. For most of them, I\'m their parents' age.\" Vanags had been a truck driver for much of his adult life but an accident three years ago -- in which he was thrown off the top of a tanker truck -- broke both of his wrists and left him unable to work behind the wheel. He came to Hudson Valley, and since he\'s always been interested in the field, he decided to study education.

Also graduating will be Mark Richeson, 26, of Albany, with a degree in Individual Studies. Richeson has cerebral palsy. He uses a wheelchair, and he was assisted during his student days by personal aide Gail DeDominces, the college's Disability Resource Center, and his family. "I had good days and bad days. When I got home, my father and I sat down together and talked through my stress, which really helped me out. I feel extremely honored to have made it through these four years with the help of the Disability Resource Center. The staff went beyond the call of duty to help me receive the best testing accommodations and to help me receive the proper equipment and desks to work with," Richeson said. "I feel extremely honored to graduate with the rest of the students. I hope other students see their future the way that I see it. My father and mother taught me to see my future by taking one day at a time."

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno will offer remarks at the commencement, and will receive the college's first-ever award for Excellence in Service to Education.

Many of this year's graduates have compelling personal histories. Hudson Valley Community College, known for its value, academic excellence and support services, attracts a wide variety of students with widely divergent goals and plans. Hudson Valley is ranked 25th of the nation's 1,500-plus community colleges in the number of degrees awarded annually. If this class follows past trends, approximately 80 percent of the graduates will settle locally. In addition to Richeson and Vanags, the graduating class on Saturday will include:

  • Roman Radomyslsky, 21, of Schodack Landing, who will graduate with an Accounting degree. Nominated as the "Best Accordion Player in the State of Smolensk" in 1996, he first came to the United States in August of that year from his home in Smolensk, Russia as part of a student exchange program. He has maintained a 4.0 grade point average at Hudson Valley Community College, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and plans to continue his studies at a four-year school.
  • Denise Watso, 40, of Latham, a Mathematics and Science major who left work in construction to study here and started with basic arithmetic. With the support of specialized instructional staff, Watso earned a spot on the President's List in her first year and continued on through Calculus III. Instead of transferring to civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as she had planned, Watso has decided to pursue Native American Studies at University at Albany. Her dream is to establish a Native American Community Center in the Capital Region to help her Abenaki people to learn their ancestral language and preserve their heritage.
  • Jacob Zaccagnino, 36, of Delmar, who maintained a 4.0 GPA in his field of study, Electrical Construction and Maintenance, while caring for his family – a wife and three children – and working full-time. He attended classes during the day, and held down the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at CSX Transportation, spending his nights as a locomotive electrician. He also served as executive officer of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Club, organizing various club functions. He regularly helped his fellow students, providing notes to those who missed a class or two, and holding study sessions at his house. Zaccagnino, who did not go to college immediately after graduating from Fort Plain Central High School because he didn't think he was mature enough, plans to return to Hudson Valley, possibly to pursue a degree in the Heating/Air Conditioning/Refrigeration Technical Services program.
  • Sean Grady, 31, of Albany, president of the college's Alpha Xi Sigma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and vice president of the Student Senate, who will graduate with a Business Administration degree. While attending classes full-time at Hudson Valley, he also worked full-time with at-risk youth. He also helps raise his two children: Imani, 11 and Iesha, 8. A recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, Grady was actively involved in several campus leadership positions, and received numerous honors while a student at the college.
  • Frances Suggs, 40, of Troy, who will graduate with a degree in Human Services. She plans to continue her education at the University at Albany and eventually earn a master's degree in social work. Suggs first became a mother at the age of 14. Now a mother of four, Suggs juggled her coursework while maintaining a full-time job as a therapeutic support counselor at the Center for the Disabled and caring for her children and a seriously ill husband. She has received numerous awards and accolades both on campus and from community organizations, including the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Commission on Economic Opportunity. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and has received the Second Chance Scholarship, the Continuing Education Scholarship, the Dr. Ruth Waller Scholarship and the Mary Margaret Scholarship. She currently works as a therapeutic support counselor at the Center for the Disabled.

Hudson Valley Community College, located in Troy, offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs in four academic divisions: Business; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Science; and Liberal Arts and Sciences. One of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York system, it has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and workforce training.