More than 1,500 graduates celebrated earning their associate’s degrees at the 44th Commencement of LaGuardia Community College held earlier today. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, a long-time champion for higher education, gave the keynote address.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has been a dedicated advocate on behalf of LaGuardia Community College—having allocated $2.75 million to LaGuardia programs including the development of high-quality, customized technology-driven and entrepreneurial training center.

“We warmly congratulate our graduates for earning their associate’s degrees,” said LaGuardia Community College President Gail O. Mellow. “Many had to balance caring for their children or working (often full-time or several part-time jobs) while attending classes and completing coursework, making this achievement especially meaningful for them. It was wonderful to celebrate their hard work with those who are dear to them, as well as with our faculty and staff who helped guide our graduates towards their degrees and the next chapters of their lives.”

Approximately 10,000 people, including friends and families of the graduates, LaGuardia faculty, staff, and leadership, and CUNY administration, attended the festivities held in The Quad at Queens College.

Pround students of LaGuardia Community College Class of 2016.

Pround students of LaGuardia Community College Class of 2016.

“Having the graduation at Queens College was fitting because of the synergies between our two colleges, as sister CUNY institutions located in the proud borough of Queens. As well, LaGuardia graduates often transfer to Queens College to pursue their bachelor’s or graduate degrees, so it was beautifully symbolic to mark their sendoff at a college where many may attend in the future,” said Dr. Mellow.

LaGuardia’s Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Paul Arcario, EdD welcomed the graduates, faculty, staff, family, and friends to the ceremony.

The City University of New York was represented by Brian Obergfell, member of the Board of Trustees, and Frederick Schaffer, CUNY General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs, who both addressed the graduates.

“It is my honor to join my CUNY Board of Trustees colleagues in wishing each member of the LaGuardia Community College graduating class of 2016 a future of success, health and happiness,” said Trustee Obergfell. “Today’s graduates represent the pride of LaGuardia Community College, the pride of CUNY, and the pride of Queens and New York! We know that each graduate has worked long and hard to overcome many difficulties and challenges, and earning an associate’s degree is a very proud achievement.”

Rachel Chambers, who represented LaGuardia Community College nationally as a face of Heads Up America, a campaign to make two years of community college tuition-free for qualifying students, was the 2016 Class Speaker.

She shared her story of moving from Jamaica to the U.S. at age 16 to pursue her education, and credited LaGuardia’s Young Adult Internship Program with giving her the foundation to pursue her dreams—including encouraging her to enroll at LaGuardia. As well, she credited LaGuardia’s Peer Advisor Academy for keeping her on track towards graduation, and the Kaplan Leadership Program for the scholarship she received that allowed her to focus solely on her education.

As she told her fellow graduates, “Many of us here today have struggled, cried for either sadness or happiness, pushed ourselves beyond the limits we thought we had and with all of that came growth. All of you are in this audience today and now you are graduates of LaGuardia Community College! We continue to break the stereotype against community college students because our success is immeasurable, and we know the changes we will continue to make.”

Chambers received her Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts: Social Science and Humanities and will attend Emory University in the fall on a full scholarship.

Tiffany Lambert, LaGuardia Class of 2007, gave the alumni speech. Lambert is a vice president in the Securities Division at Goldman Sachs, where she works within the Quantitative and Algorithmic Trading Strats group focusing on interest rate products. Lambert is a member of board of The Carlito’s Wish Foundation and the Computer Science Advisory Board of LaGuardia Community College. As well, she works closely with Girls Who Code in coordinating the summer emersion program at Goldman Sachs.

Lambert holds an Associate of Science in Computer Science from LaGuardia Community College and a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science from Brooklyn College. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Lambert was a .Net developer for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at the City College of New York.

LaGuardia graduation 2016

The LaGuardia Student Choir performed the Star Spangled Banner, arranged and conducted by LaGuardia Associate Professor of Music and Theater, Lisa DeSpain.