Hudson Valley Community College’s 70th Commencement Celebrates More Than 1,500 Graduates

May 11, 2024

Graduates range in age from 16 to 71, and come from 38 countries around the globe

Hudson Valley Community College held its 70th annual Commencement exercises in a three-ceremony format, organized by program of study, on campus at the McDonough Sports Complex in Troy on Saturday, May 11, 2024, honoring more than 1,500 graduates. Three ceremonies were held to include all degree and certificate programs for the School of STEM, the School of Health Sciences, and the School of Business and Liberal Arts.

During the school-based ceremonies, graduates received individual recognition on stage and heard inspirational remarks from President Roger Ramsammy, representatives from Rensselaer County and the Hudson Valley Board of Trustees, the Student Senate president and their academic dean. Thousands of family and friends attended in person, and all three ceremonies were livestreamed on the college’s website:

The Class of 2024 includes 1,515 students who have earned associate degrees and certificates in 80+ program areas in the Schools of STEM, Health Sciences and Business and Liberal Arts. Of them, 440 graduated with academic honors, and 150 are members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The Class of 2024 also includes 47 graduates who are either veterans or active duty members of the military.

The Class of 2024 ranges in age from 16 to 71, and includes 15 students who graduated from dual-enrollment high school programs, including the first graduate of the QUESTAR III and HVCC STEM High School. Graduates come from 38 countries around the globe, though more than 85 percent of Hudson Valley’s Class of 2024 resides in the Capital Region.

Some graduate highlights include:

Omar Cunningham
Business Administration graduate Omar Cunningham sees the game of chess as a metaphor for his life – chart a plan, make the right moves and good things will happen. A prodigy of the game from a young age (his expert-level play took him across the country for tournaments), Omar has used that strategy to conquer addiction and homelessness in his young life, and he’s now thriving with the help of some great mentors and the community he found at Hudson Valley. Omar will receive the Willie A. Hammett Student Services Award and the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award for Student Excellence, for the top student in the Educational Opportunity Program. A Fall 2023 graduate, he is continuing his education at the University at Albany.

Brianna Burris
A mother of three young children and the recipient of the Respiratory Care Class of 2024 Student of the Year Award, Brianna Burris has become an expert in juggling work, family and school. Her days start early and they end late, but, she says, the hard work has paid off. After a half dozen years working as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), in 2022 Brianna decided to move into the respiratory care field. She was accepted into Hudson Valley’s two-year associate degree program for fall 2022, but the birth of her daughter not long before her first semester threatened to derail her plans. It didn’t. With hard work and the help of her family, Brianna excelled in the rigorous Respiratory Care program and is graduating with honors.

Mohamed Khalafalla
Few Hudson Valley Community College graduates have faced challenges similar to Mohamed Khalafalla, who was born in a small village in Sudan and, because his father was able to obtain a green card to work in the US, emigrated here when he was a teenager. Mohamed spoke very little English when he started his Architectural Technology studies at Hudson Valley but two years later, he is graduating at the top of his class, and will be entering the Architecture program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall.

Jordyn Goldhaber
When she graduated from high school in 2017, Jordyn Goldhaber set some goals for herself, all revolving around a career teaching in the classroom. She had a few false starts in her higher education but when she arrived at Hudson Valley in 2022, she knew she had found the right fit. Jordan took advantage of the CareerNext program, which offers personalized academic, organization and planning support for students with autism and learning differences. She excelled in her student teaching placements and will graduate from the Early Childhood program with close to a 4.0 GPA. Jordyn is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, as well as Kappa Delta Pi, the education major honorary society. During her time at the college, she served as co-president of the Early Childhood Club, and also received a Leadership in Education Award from her department this year.

Coleen Carter
When Coleen Carter became a wife and mother, she prioritized taking care of others, especially in her job as Assistant Director of Residential Services at St. Anne Institute in Albany. After running away from home at 16, Coleen didn’t earn a high school diploma and when she decided she wanted to continue her education as an adult learner, she knew Hudson Valley was the right place to do so. Earning her High School Equivalency diploma and an associate degree in Human Services, Coleen is on track to earning a bachelor’s degree to fuel her dream of becoming a therapist.

Taison Adams
Taison Adams is an Autobody Technical Services - Autobody Repair student who is eager to graduate this May. As a single dad facing financial challenges, he discovered the Project Higher Program, which led him to the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center (EOC). After graduating there in 2022 from the Welding program, he decided to continue his education at HVCC and pursue his lifelong interests in the automotive field. Taison has come a long way in a short time, and he says his future is now more promising than ever.

Leah Carvajal
Leah Carvajal is an Automotive Technical Services student. While she was very unsure of what career path she wanted to take, she began searching through many programs and schools and came across the Automotive program at HVCC. Leah says she felt interested in the program right away, and she realized working on cars was something she could actually picture herself doing. She is a tremendous role model for many other students, especially young women seeking to enter non-traditional careers, and also recently became the first female to win the ATS Top Wrench "Student of the Year" award.

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