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05/14/2003
Hudson Valley Community College Commencement Scheduled for Saturday

CONTACT: Sarah Boggess (518) 629-8071; beeper 342-4905
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"All in the Family" might be the theme for the Kolars of Hoosick Falls this Saturday.

As Hudson Valley Community College celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Kolars will see three family members receive diplomas at the college's annual commencement ceremony – parents Eileen, 52, and Al, 52, and son Nicholas, 20.

The commencement will take place in the college's McDonough Sports Complex, Saturday, May 17. The processional will begin at 8:50 a.m. and the ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. More than 1,300 students are expected to graduate.

Eileen grew up in Southern California and attended college after graduating from high school. Life got in the way, though, and she dropped out, got married to Al, moved to New York and raised their two children.

She was working at Hoosick Falls Central School in 1997 when the administration asked if she was interested in a position that required college credits and teaching assistant certification through the state Education Department. She enrolled at Hudson Valley. After finishing the courses she needed for certification, she continued with night and summer classes.

"I'm not going to say it was a breeze, but I had a goal in mind," she said. "My family supported me through the years. And when they started attending also, we were each other's support system."

Alan enrolled at Hudson Valley after the laminate company he worked for closed up shop. He will graduate with a Computer Information Services degree. Nicholas will earn an Electrical Construction and Maintenance degree. Another son, Jake, also attends the college.

An advisor commented to my husband that we are a ‘Hudson Valley family,'" Eileen said. "I guess that's what we have become. It has been a great experience for all of us—a great college, a great start. I will never forget my experience at Hudson Valley. I met many wonderful professors and students."

In this, the college's 50th anniversary, many of this year's graduates have compelling personal stories of how and why they came to complete their degree at Hudson Valley.

In addition to the Kolars, the Class of 2003 includes:

Andrew Kisela - Andrew Kisela, age 77, may well be the oldest new graduate the college has ever had.

Kisela is a native of Tarrytown but currently lives in Shohola, Pennsylvania. He completed his degree in Mortuary Science almost exclusively through online learning. When he had to be on campus for certain classes, Andrew and his wife Lucille stayed at a local motel and drive the three hours back to their home on weekends. "I never even owned a computer before taking this program," he said.

Kisela came out of Navy service in 1946 and began what would eventually be a 40-year career in sales for Hallmark Cards, first in the Metropolitan New York region and later on the West Coast.

After leaving one career, he decided to pursue another that had interested him for years. He wanted to become a funeral director. Kisela heard about Hudson Valley from a local funeral director who had attended the college, came up for a visit, and was soon enrolled.

Kisela, whose sons will be flying in from around the country for the commencement, praised the program and instructors. "I found the courses challenging, but I've been out of school for 60 years. Many times, when I walked into the classroom for the first time, the students thought I was the professor," he said. "They soon learned I was just another student."

Kisela hopes to find a job working in a funeral home near his home in Pennsylvania.

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Kelley Schultz - When Kelley Schultz, 20, arrived at Hudson Valley in 2000, she noticed that some of the major trips sponsored by the college's Student Senate – those to Boston, Montreal and New York City - were not accessible for those in wheelchairs.

Wheelchair-bound herself, she promptly set out to remedy that situation, and lobbied the Student Senate to provide accessible transportation. Soon after, Kelley was traveling with her classmates around the region. "That's one of the things I'm proud to have accomplished at Hudson Valley," said Kelley, a Phi Theta Kappa member.

Although she's begun her first semester at the University at Albany this spring, Schultz will attend to graduate with her class. "Even after moving to Albany, I'll still seek out my Hudson Valley professors. It was a real family atmosphere."

"Hudson Valley really helped bring her out of her shell. She made friends with fellow students and with her professors," said Kelley's mother, Evelyn. "It's wonderful as a parent to see her with friends and accepted."

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Susan Smith - As a secretary in the college's Student Services office, Susan Smith, 49, has seen graduations come and go for more than a decade. In fact, one of her main job duties this time of year is to make sure students get the documentation they need to participate in the commencement ceremony. This year, Smith will be viewing graduation from a different perspective – as a member of the Class of 2003.

Her journey through higher education has not been an easy one. Smith graduated from Clayton A. Bouton High School in Voorheesville in 1971 and entered Hudson Valley, but only lasted one semester. She married in 1972 and gave birth to a baby daughter a year later. "Returning to school was the farthest thought from my mind," she said.

"By the fall of 1990, now working as an employee of Hudson Valley, I attempted to return to school by taking evening classes. Unfortunately, life obligations, including an impending divorce, made it impossible to continue my education at that time. I had no alternative but to work one full-time job and one part-time job to pay the bills."

Encouraged by friends and co-workers, Smith returned to the classroom again several years later. In 2001, she matriculated into the Individual Studies program and will graduate with an associate's degree this year.

Hudson Valley Community College is the second largest college or university in the Capital Region. Approximately 40 percent of those graduating on Saturday will transfer to four-year colleges and universities, with the University at Albany, The College of Saint Rose, Siena College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute among the most popular transfer institutions.

Of those that choose to enter the workforce immediately, more than 90 percent are employed in their field of choice within a year after graduation.

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 11,000 students each year, and is known as a leader in distance learning initiatives and workforce training.

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.