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Hudson Valley Community College hosts 51st Commencement on Saturday, May 21

Students with diverse goals, dreams earn their degrees

CONTACT: Janine Kava or Eric Bryant (518) 629-8071
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Graduates profiled in this advisory are available for interviews this week and on Saturday, after the Commencement ceremony. To arrange interviews, please contact Janine Kava or Eric Bryant by noon on Friday, May 20, to set up a time and place to meet with the graduate either prior to, or the day of, graduation.

Mary V. Haynes fell in love with the English language at a young age, but it has taken her some 30 years to earn the diploma that validates her devotion.

Jump back twenty years and you'll find Mary, or "Val" as she's known to friends, in front of Albany's most popular band, Fear of Strangers. She was lead singer, chief songwriter and the focal point of a band that local critics said would make Albany the next big music mecca.

The band broke up, and Haynes traveled to New York City, where she began a solo career that saw her named Musician magazine's Best Unsigned Artist of 1988. But like a lot of talented musicians, the big break never materialized.

Back in the Capital Region, she rekindled her love of language, and decided the string of dead end jobs she was enduring did little to keep that fire burning. The solution? Education and the chance to one day share her love of language with others. The starting point? Hudson Valley Community College.

On Saturday, May 21, Haynes will receive her associate degree in Individual Studies from Hudson Valley – the first step on a journey that she hopes will bring her back to the college – as a teacher. She is one of more than 1,600 students who have earned associate degrees and certificates from Hudson Valley this year. The college's 51st Commencement ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. in the McDonough Sports Complex on the Hudson Valley campus; the processional begins at 8:50 a.m.

Haynes' next step is the University at Albany, where she will continue studying English.

"All of my teachers have inspired me. They have a passion for what they are teaching," said Haynes, who is 51. "I am really going to miss this place."

In addition to Haynes, the Class of 2005 includes:

Sheila Cintron of Albany. A full-time member of the Albany Police Department for the past five years, Cintron will graduate with a degree in Physical Education. For two years, Cintron balanced her life as a patrol officer on the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, with her life as a student during the day. Her schedule is hectic, to say the least:

Cintron typically wakes up around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., and heads to school; studying takes place during the hours on campus when she's not in class. By mid-afternoon, she must leave for work. After her shift, she gets home and, if she's lucky, can fall asleep before 1 a.m.

Repeat this cycle for most weekdays and you'll understand why Cintron not only wants to stay in shape, but needs to stay in shape. She's also a member of the Albany Ambush women's football team – and a former fitness training officer for the local Zone 5 Police Academy.

"I have a passion for physical fitness," she said. "I would like to finish my 20 years in the Albany Police Department and I'll still be young enough to do what I want." She's considering a second career as a fitness instructor, teacher or athletic trainer.

As a returning adult student, Cintron was a little apprehensive about completing college-level work. "Yes, there was some fear. I was, like, can I do the work? But it's been an awesome experience. The teachers are very good about giving you the extra time."

Cintron, who received the Academic Excellence Award in Physical Education, will continue her studies at The Sage Colleges in the spring of 2006, after a short break.

Maria Jose Carranza of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Like many international students, Maria followed family members north to continue her education. "I heard good things about Hudson Valley. It was economical and convenient for me," said Carranza, a Human Services graduate who received the department's Academic Excellence Award.

Most new students will admit that college can be daunting, but pursuing a degree in a non-native language adds another level of difficulty. With just a summer's worth of English language training, Carranza enrolled at Hudson Valley. She clearly remembers her first semester Biology class. "I was thinking to myself, ‘They're not speaking English, they're speaking biology!'"

Hard work and some creative note-taking ("Most of my notes are in some type of Spanglish") got Carranza through that Biology class and the two subsequent years of the Human Services curriculum.

Two years later, Carranza is so confident in her language skills that she volunteers as an Admissions Office tour guide for prospective students. She also is looking forward to continuing her education in international social work. "It would like to combine two of my favorite things, helping people and traveling," she said.

Larry Duane LeBarron and Larry Duane LeBarron II of Hoosick Falls. The LeBarrons are both graduates of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program in the School of Engineering and Industrial Technologies.

When his employer – and his job – relocated to New Hampshire two years ago, Larry Duane LeBarron decided to enroll at Hudson Valley – and convinced his son to return with him. In 2000, the younger LeBarron was enrolled in the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program, but he left after one semester, deciding instead to work in the field.

"I didn't have to convince him too much," recalled the older LeBarron, who is 52. "He enjoys the work, and enjoys the money. My wife and I wanted to give him the same opportunity as my daughter to go to college."

His son, who is 25, added, "You can't do much without a college education, and the program is outstanding. They teach you everything, from the basics to advanced work. The instructors are just unbelievable."

The pair took their share of ribbing from classmates, including countless jokes that Larry II heard about being walked to school by his dad. Father will be more than happy to accompany son to Commencement.

"When my older daughter graduated from college, it was overwhelming. But to be able to share this with my son – is the greatest thing," the older LeBarron said.

Founded in 1953, Hudson Valley Community College offers more than 60 degree and certificate programs in four academic divisions: Liberal Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Industrial Technologies; Health Sciences; and Business; as well as programs run through the Educational Opportunity Center offering certification programs in workforce and academic preparation.