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Hundreds of Success Stories at 47th Annual Hudson Valley Commencement

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

FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Saturday, May 19, 2001

Hudson Valley Community College graduated its 47th class in commencement exercises today.

"I hope that we have taught you, above all else, that there is so much more to be discovered, and it can go on for a lifetime," college President John L. Buono said to the graduates in his commencement address. "Do you know what Michelangelo's lifelong motto was? I am still learning.' "

Buono mentioned several graduates by name in his remarks, telling their personal stories in an attempt to portray the wide variety of individuals graduating from the college's 50-plus academic programs. Two graduates he mentioned were Marie Forestal, 50, and her daughter Medgina Forestal, 19, who both graduated from the Nursing program today. The Forestals came to Albany from Haiti, where Marie was a teacher. Although Marie already has a biology and chemistry degree from another SUNY institution, she wanted to work with people and decided to enter the Nursing program at Hudson Valley. Another Forestal daughter, Lise, also is enrolled in the college's Nursing program.

"What high hopes we all have for you!" President Buono said. "As I hear your fascinating stories, I realize you have come here from all directions, and you are going off in even more – your paths are varied and intricate."

Many of this year's graduates have compelling personal histories, and have widely divergent goals and plans. Hudson Valley Community College, known for its value, academic excellence and support services, attracts a wide variety of students. Hudson Valley is ranked 27th 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 1,350 graduates will settle in the Capital Region.

The college maintains articulation agreements and joint admission agreements with 37 four-year colleges and universities, and more than 40 percent of its graduates transfer immediately to four-year colleges and universities. The rest seek immediate employment. Of those that choose to enter the workforce, more than 90 percent are employed in their field of choice within a year after graduation. Of students who must take national certification exams for their field of choice, Hudson Valley students consistently score in the top 10 percent.

In addition to the Forestals, the Class of 2001 includes:
  • Will DuPont, 29, of Wynantskill, was recognized this year as one of 20 members of the All-USA Community and Junior College First Team, and nearly 1,500 students across the country were nominated for the honor. DuPont, a Criminal Justice major with a 4.0 GPA, was profiled in USA Today and honored in Chicago, where he received a trophy and $2,500 for his achievements. He has been very active on campus and in the community.

  • Philomen McFee spent the first 30 years of her life in Trinidad, where she received the equivalent of a seventh grade education. After moving to the United States to get a fresh start on life after losing a loved one, McFee enrolled at Hudson Valley in 1999. Now a 41-year-old Nursing graduate, the mother of six has overcome cultural and educational barriers to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. She will work at St. Mary's Hospital in Troy.

  • Ron Otwori, 29, came to Hudson Valley Community College from a small town in Kenya, Africa called Kisii. He was a schoolteacher back in Kenya for children aged 7-16, which is how he became aware of the profound dental health needs of the children there. He came to Hudson Valley specifically to earn his degree in Dental Hygiene five years ago – he was enrolled in Individual Studies for three years before being accepted into the Dental Hygiene program. He plans to stay here until March to gain some work experience as a dental hygienist before returning to Kenya. He and his classmates are launching "Project Kenya," and are planning their first missionary trip to Kenya for next summer, when they will provide dental health education and dental supplies to the underserved areas of Kenya.

  • Amanda Bird, 20, of Cohoes, one of the college's "Who's Who" Students this year, is headed to Northern Michigan University, but not before heading to national training camp in Lake Placid -- she is training for the national bobsled team. She was a gold medal winner at the 1999 and 2000 Empire State Games, and her goal is to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. A 4.0 Phi Theta Kappa student and active community volunteer, she is planning to attend medical school and pursue a career in medicine.

  • Kevin McGrath of Troy is a 30-year-old and father of two who attended the college's Electrical Construction and Maintenance program while working full-time at Playtex in Watervliet. Another 4.0 student, Kevin also volunteered as a tutor and volunteered to wire a gym for "Wheelchair Warriors," a non-profit organization for the disabled.

  • David Harris, 20, of Castleton, who is graduating from the college's Liberal Arts Honors Program with a 3.95 average, will transfer to RPI to major in Computer Information Systems.

  • Brian Bradke, 19, of Latham, a graduate of the college's Engineering Science program, who made news this year be being only one of 30 college undergraduates participating in NASA's Spaceflight and Life Sciences Training Program, with colleagues from places like Harvard, Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. Brian is headed to RPI. Ryan Akers, 20, of Valatie, is another outstanding Engineering Science graduate who is headed to Cornell University.

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 9,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and workforce training.