EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Caps were tossed. Graduates walked across the stage. Surprise scholarships were awarded. After two years confined to a digital screen, Bergen Community College commencement came back, live and in-person. Valedictorian Katie Conte, of Ringwood, addressed her peers as the top student in the class of 2022.
“Despite all of the challenges we faced in the last two years, we finished our degrees,” she said. “Just in case it hasn’t been said enough, I am going to say it now ... I am so very proud of you. We have proven to be one of the most resilient groups of college graduates to walk this stage.”
MetLife Stadium played host to the College’s most important day on the calendar after two years of virtual ceremonies necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The May 19 ceremony recognized more than 2,500 graduates, including nearly 1,000 in attendance. The East Rutherford venue, home to the National Football League’s New York Giants, provided an appropriate backdrop for keynote speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez - a former history teacher who spurred the team to a fourth Super Bowl championship with his “all-in” mantra.
“You being all-in is not a feeling - it’s not something you turned on or turned off,” he said. “You have made it a part of who you are. You have made it a lifestyle.”
Bergen President Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., presided over the ceremony, while Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz and Student Government Association President Christina Feinroth, of Rochelle Park, also provided remarks. Former U.S. Professor of the Year Geoffrey Sadock, Ph.D., led the procession of invited guests as grand marshal.
For the first time, the Bergen Community College Foundation sponsored three scholarships for graduates in attendance at commencement. The names, randomly drawn at the conclusion of the ceremony as a parting gift for the class of 2022, awarded $500 each to Lauren N. Anderson, Jessica P. Carchi and Ashley Viray Guinto. President Friedman said the initiative sought to reinforce the graduates’ connection to Bergen as he personally sponsored a fourth scholarship and drew graduate Yeni Hernandez Flores’ name.
“Today, we’re here to celebrate the future and what lays ahead,” he said. “The Foundation wants you to remember, no matter where you use this scholarship in the future, you were Bergen Community College graduates first.”
The class of 2022 featured dozens of Bergen County high school students earning degrees as part of the College’s early college program, members of the Turning Point Program for students with intellectual disabilities and 86 students with 4.0 GPAs. The College ranks No. 1 in New Jersey for associate degree graduates.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
Photo Caption: Members of the Bergen Community College class of 2022.