Class of 2019 Celebrates John Jay’s 54th Commencement and Fifth Hooding Ceremony

Class of 2019 Celebrates John Jay’s 54th Commencement and Fifth Hooding Ceremony

Class of 2019 Celebrates John Jay’s 54th Commencement and Fifth Hooding Ceremony

On May 29, the class of 2019 became the largest graduating class in John Jay history and the newest members of our 65,000+ strong alumni network. Degrees awarded during the College’s 54th Commencement included 3,144 bachelor’s degrees and 698 master’s degrees. Among the graduates were first-generation college students, immigrants, veterans, student athletes, parents, caregivers, and the first cohort of our Accelerate, Complete and Engage (ACE) Program.

A graduate excited to walk across the stage
Excited to walk across the stage

In the days leading up to commencement, the College hosted several ceremonies to honor the achievements of our graduates. Of the most important was our Fifth Annual Graduate Hooding ceremony that was held on May 23, which honored students receiving graduate degrees at John Jay. Among those recognized was New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who earned her master’s degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay’s online program.

Graduates strike a pose on Commencement day
President Mason, Rossana Rosado and Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez following the Graduate Hooding ceremony

During his keynote address at the second hooding ceremony, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli spoke of the importance of earning a master’s degree from the College. “You are all making a profound statement today. Obtaining a master’s degree from John Jay College is not only a very big deal it’s a testament to your great perseverance and your big dreams," said DiNapoli. "This day is the result of a tremendous amount of hard work, determination and commitment." 

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and President Mason
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and President Mason

“Class of 2019, you embody the best of America’s great story. Stories of resiliency. Stories of excellence. Stories of opportunity. And, stories of hope.” —President Karol V. Mason

Graduation Day
On commencement day, graduates, family, friends, faculty and staff gathered at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing, New York, excited for the day’s celebration. Students adjusted their newly decorated caps, took selfies with classmates, and readied themselves for their walk across the stage. Addressing the audience, President Karol V. Mason spoke of the joy she felt looking at the graduating students before her. “Class of 2019, you embody the best of America’s great story. Stories of resiliency. Stories of excellence. Stories of opportunity. And, stories of hope,” said Mason.

John Jay Graduates 2019
Graduates celebrating their accomplishments

Inspiring Students
Giving the audience a glimpse of the wonderful, dedicated students that make up John Jay College, President Mason highlighted the achievements of several students from the Class of 2019. Each with their own journey to success.  

President Mason congratulating the graduates
President Mason congratulating a graduate

The first student she mentioned was a veteran, part of the 214 veterans who graduated in 2019, the largest number of veterans earning their degrees in the College’s history. “He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan five times, and he was wounded in action, suffering a traumatic brain injury,” said Mason. “But like so many of our students, nothing was going to stop this young man from receiving his education,” she continued. “Today, this resilient veteran is receiving his degree with a 3.8 GPA. And he’s going on to get his MPA at John Jay.”

John Jay College Commencement 2019

She then spoke of the College’s immigrant population—a group that encompasses 33 percent of John Jay’s student body—and the integral role immigrants have in making our community and our country stronger. “One of our seniors graduating today traveled to America all the way from the mountains of Ecuador. She faced the daunting task of learning a new language, understanding a new culture and navigating life as an undocumented student,” said Mason. Now, “as a proud DACA recipient, she’s thrived at John Jay. Her education is putting her family and her community on the path to success.”

John Jay Graduates 2019
Smiling for the camera

Mason also noted the different experiences and backgrounds John Jay students bring with them. One student she highlighted, from Brownsville, Brooklyn, witnessed several crimes as a child but was determined to help uplift underrepresented communities. At John Jay, he excelled in the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program and was accepted to 11 law schools. “What I want everyone to take away from all of these stories, is that each of you in the Class of 2019 represents some of our country’s greatest minds,” said Mason.

CUNY Chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez poses with a John Jay graduate
CUNY Chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez poses with a John Jay graduate

“You brought resiliency, commitment, and hard work to everything you did and now you will excel at anything you put your minds to.”—Félix V. Matos Rodríguez

She then introduced CUNY Chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, the first Latinx Chancellor for CUNY. He spoke of his excitement of being with our students, noting that this commencement was the first he’s attended in his new role. In a message directed to the students, he said, “I couldn’t be happier to be here. I feel like a proud papá.” Rodríguez added, “You brought resiliency, commitment, and hard work to everything you did and now you will excel at anything you put your minds to.”

Rodly Gaillard proposes to Nandy Balkaran ’19
Rodly Gaillard proposes to Nandy Balkaran ’19

A Proposal for the Ages
President Mason then called Nandy Balkaran ’19 up to the stage to receive a "special honor." As Balkaran nervously made her way to the stage, her boyfriend Rodly Gaillard 19, a CUNY New York City College of Technology student, appeared from the wings with a huge bouquet of roses and a question. As he dropped down to one knee, the audience broke into massive applause and cheers, knowing he was asking for her hand in marriage. “She said yes,” President Mason exclaimed as the newly engaged couple hugged each other in happiness.

The Honorable Loretta Lynch
The Honorable Loretta Lynch addresses the graduates

Fierce Advocates Featured
During the commencement exercise, the Class of 2019 also heard from New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Honorable Loretta Lynch and the Honorable Alex Calabrese. Both Lynch and Calabrese were proud members of the Class of 2019, receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the College’s Commencement.

Jasmine Awad
Jasmine Awad gives her speech during commencement

When it was her time to speak, Student Council President and Valedictorian Jasmine Awad ’19, told her fellow classmates of the joy she has felt being their Student Body President and how excited she is for everyone’s future. “Someone once said that your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that’s yours to lead,” said Awad. “So, whether you’re graduating at 21 years old or 68 years old today, you came here with a purpose, one that you’ll continue to fulfill.”

Karamo Brown
Karamo Brown encourages students to believe in themselves

Keynote speaker, three-time Emmy award winner Karamo Brown, known for his role on the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye, gave the students words of encouragement. “You must remember that comparison is the thief of joy in your life. You have to remind yourself that your experience is unique and you have to be patient with your journey,” he said.  “Trust and believe, you will accomplish what you are supposed to accomplish. You will have the life you are supposed to have, and you will help the people you are supposed to help. Be confident in yourself.”

President Karol V. Mason and John Jay graduate
President Karol V. Mason taking a selfie with a graduate

“Class of 2019, you’ve inspired me, you’ve challenged me and you’ve given me hope for a brighter future.” —President Karol V. Mason

Wishing Graduates Well
Many of this year’s graduates are going on to prominent law, medical and graduate schools, while others embark on fulfilling careers in the private and public sector. Putting into words the great pride and joy all faculty and staff feel for our graduating seniors, and all our students, President Mason said, “Class of 2019, you’ve inspired me, you’ve challenged me and you’ve given me hope for a brighter future. Thank you for making John Jay the amazing institution that it is.”

More scenes from the event: 

Three John Jay Graduates

VIDEOS

Commencement 2019 Video Playlist