President's Remarks

Northampton Community College Commencement

May 22, 2014

Dr. Mark Erickson


Good evening and welcome. What a great and glorious day - a day when we celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the students sitting before us.

On a day like this, I honestly don't think anyone has a better job than I do.

I am honored to be here with you as your president and to experience the wonder and excitement of this - -my fourth NCC commencement.

Congratulations, graduates. This is your day, so feel free to make a little noise!

Families, parents, and friends, it is your day, also. Because without you and your support, many of these graduates would not be here. Students, please rise and salute your families and friends!

What a wonderfully diverse graduating class... ­­­794 strong, ranging in age from 18 to 69 with graduates from 11 countries.

And in this class you will find story after story about how our students got here and where they are going....unique stories about students' own personal challenges and triumphs.

As I look out over this crowd, I can't help but think of our veterans who are graduating:  veterans like Corporal Navindra Persaud who served as a U.S. Marine for 5 years including two tours of duty in Afghanistan, led our Band of Brothers and plans to pursue his bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

I also think of Katlane Semma, the daughter of a single mother, who came to us from South Africa originally on a one year State Department grant and then returned to finish her degree.  She has become an incredible campus leader with an infectious spirit and great smile. Today she graduates with a degree in construction management before returning to her native South Africa later this summer.

For some of our graduates, like Jose Valderrama, today is truly a family affair. Two-time president of Monroe Student Governance, Jose graduated from high school and went right to work but was inspired by his mother who was an NCC student to return to school himself.  She graduated in January, and he will cross the stage today and graduate with a degree in marketing.

Jose is not the only one graduating with a family connection. There are too many to mention, but I will share just a few.

I think of Alana Kapcsos who began at NCC in our children's center. The daughter of two NCC employees, Kathy and Jeff, she has been part of the NCC family for years and graduates tonight with an AAS in Architecture and a 3.58 GPA. She is one of only two transfer students accepted to Penn State's highly selective School of Architecture.

There are also numerous siblings graduating together. Among them are Eder Florian and his sister Marianela who immigrated from Guatemala and today both earn double AS degrees in chemistry and engineering.

And Christopher Giannetta and his twin brother Nick who are both graduating today with degrees in electronical technology - one with a 3.94 GPA and the other with a 3.8. I am not telling you which.

I think tonight, also, of Heather Cross, age 55, who rode the bus every week for past 6 year years to come to NCC and get her degree. As tough as the journey was, she persevered to serve as an example for her kids and grandkids, and today she will cross this stage as an NCC graduate.  She plans to continue her education next year at ESU.

Single mother Tamikah Millin graduates today with a degree in psychology and an impressive 3.9 GPA.   Not so long ago, Tamikah and her son were homeless and secured a place in a transitional housing program that requires its residents to attend training.  Tamikah took on that challenge and look at where she is now. And the story isn't over. Tamikah plans to attend Penn State in the fall and obtain her bachelor's degree and then work with underserved foster children.

Marcus Sands came to us from the Bahamas because one of our former professors, Craig Kilpatrick, and his wife Barb, discovered him while on vacation, brought him to NCC where today he graduates with a  3.65 GPA and a degree from our hospitality program.  Marcus will be continuing on to Temple University next fall.

This is a special group of students who are poised and ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I have no doubt they will make their mark on this community, this country, and this world.

Graduates, you came to today's ceremony as students, but you will leave as alums...forever connected to this place as members of the Northampton family, a network with over 46,000 members. Stay in touch. Get involved as alumni.

Please know that this president and the entire Northampton staff and faculty are very proud of you. Well done!

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