“Tonight, you are taking an important step in creating better lives for yourselves, for your families and for the community,” Dr. Ronald A. Milon, Bergen’s interim vice president of Continuing Education and Community Outreach, told the graduates at the February 4 ceremony. “In successfully attaining your GED, you have opened the door to new pathways to education and employment. You have better enabled yourselves to contribute to the culture, workforce, business community and economy of Bergen County. As I look out at your guests tonight, it is clear that you have made your families and friends proud.” State Sen. Loretta Weinberg delivered the keynote address and Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan joined College faculty and officials for the GED Class of 2010 “Recognition of Achievement Ceremony” at the Anna Maria Ciccone Theatre on the main campus here. The graduates completed their GED course work at the College’s Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack.
The graduates came from diverse backgrounds and ranged in age from 16-to-63 years old, according to Mary Johnson-Rivera, who directs the GED program. Ten percent of the graduates had not attended school in more than 25 years when they started taking GED classes at Bergen. Sixty-four percent of Bergen’s GED achievers plan to continue their education at a junior or senior college. Many achievers will choose Bergen to earn degrees, as more than 600 have done in recent years.
Earning their GED has proven a major steppingstone to realizing the American Dream of achieving a better life for many graduates over the years, Dr. Milon said. “For many of you here tonight, finding the time -- between working and raising families -- to return for a GED took extraordinary perseverance. However, your success demonstrates that you are prepared to take the next step as learners and as productive citizens,” he said.
Valedictorian Damian Sanders, who plans to enroll in college English classes at the Ciarco Learning Center in the fall, told fellow graduates and their guests of the importance of earning the GED as an example to his family. A published writer and leader of a nonprofit organization in Brooklyn that he started two years ago to teach children about hip-hop music, Mr. Sanders enrolled in Bergen’s GED program to put him on a track for success and to set an example for his two sisters who have not completed high school. “I am 31 years old and the eldest of three children not too far behind me in age. Yet, I am the first in my immediate family to break the cycle of high school dropouts,” he told the packed theater. “I cannot accept this accolade (being named class valedictorian), at least not alone. Many of you, like me, have had some attempt to clip your wings before you even tried to fly. Some of you left school to take care of children who by now have graduated high school themselves. Every graduate here is a valedictorian tonight.”
Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu) based in Paramus is a public two-year coeducational college, enrolling nearly 17,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip J. 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.