SCHENECTADY — Chefs and teachers. Biologists and musicians. An 18-year-old and a 65-year-old. They all graduated Thursday from Schenectady County Community College.
The institution granted degrees to around 570 students at Proctors during its 47th annual commencement.
SCCC President Steady Moono said he recognized the challenges and struggles graduates faced as they worked toward their degrees while maintaining jobs and raising families. He highlighted the particular accomplishment of first-generation college graduates.
“I know today some of you are fulfilling the dreams of generations, of mother and grandmother, by being the first person to graduate college,” Moono said. “For some of you, this day was a foregone conclusion. For others, it's a dream come true.”
The graduates earned a wide range of associate's degrees and certificates; some will join the workforce, while others will continue their studies at four-year colleges. Eighteen military veterans graduated, as well as international students from around the world.
Moono said the graduates — armed with “nimble minds and comfort with ambiguity” — are well-prepared to join the college's alumni who, in countless fields, are making a difference “little by little, piece by piece.”
Life analogies abound at commencement ceremonies, as educators and guest speakers take their last chances with a captive audience of students to boil down the essence of an education and impart something — anything — that will stick.
So Thursday’s keynote speaker, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, brought a book with her.
“This is called a book,” she joked, holding a red tome. “No, it doesn’t belong in the museum.”
Pretend the book represents your life, she told the graduates.
No one has control over the first or last day of their lives, Hochul said, but they do have the power to write the story of what happens in between. She held up a pen, a symbol of the skills and knowledge the graduates developed during their time in school.
“Beginning today, when you walk out those doors, the rest of the book — how it turns out — is up to you,” Hochul said.
Students had advice to offer, too. Class President Margaret Ketchen told classmates to embrace the struggles in their lives; they only make you stronger, she said.
“None of us are strangers to difficulty,” she said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from embracing those struggles.”