Rainy Skies Outside Didn’t Dampen the Spirits Inside for the 2017 Montclair State University Undergraduate Commencement

By Alexandra Clark, Editor-in-Chief, Babee Garcia, Entertainment Editor, Fiorella Medina, Copy Editor, and Chanila German, Feature Editor

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Students pledged allegiance to the United States before being pledged in as Montclair State alumni. Therese Sheridan | The Montclarion

The Prudential Center in Newark, NJ was filled with excitement all throughout the arena, as the undergraduate class of 2017 graduated from Montclair State University at the annual spring commencement on May 25, 2017. There were 5,086 students that composed this year’s graduating class and despite some technical difficulties and a four-hour long ceremony, it proved to be a special day to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2017.

Graduates, families, friends, staff, and more packed the house for the 2017 undergraduate commencement. Therese Sheridan | The Montclarion

The day was off to a rough start even before the ceremony began. The ceremony, which was originally scheduled to start at 9 a.m., was delayed by 30 minutes. The heavy rain outside also stifled the commute. Attendees and soon-to-be graduates were seen huddling under umbrellas outside of the Prudential Center waiting to be let inside and escape the rain.

Kiani Nelson, who was earning her Bachelor of Arts in musical theatre, sang the National Anthem which was received with cheers from the crowd and her fellow graduates. President Susan Cole then proceeded to welcome attendees and graduates to the commencement ceremony.

“The work that you have done has been in part to enable you to become the person you want to be in this world, but only in part,” said President Cole in her speech. “It has also been to enable you to become the kind of citizen that our nation and the world needs.”

In her speech, President Cole gave a special mention to two students who were part of the graduating class, but were called to serve overseas in the armed forces this year.

“Let us think about Zachary Moninghoff and Alexander Pownall,” said President Cole. “We look forward to their safe return to Montclair State and to the time when they will have their opportunity to stand where you stand.”

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka was one of the keynote speakers at commencement who earned an honorary degree and expressed to the graduates how much they are needed in this world. He utilized a quote from Martin Luther King who said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the stairwell.”

“Your presence here today is a culmination of that deep faith, of many lost steps, of bruised knees, of hurt feelings and refusals to turn back,” said Baraka. “I need you to internalize that
thought to know that the road will be tough but the victory in the end will be great.”

Mayor Baraka’s speech resonated with students as he mentioned the importance of recognizing the worth of all people no matter their gender, race, ethnicity or religion and transforming the world through everything they have learned.

“We need you to know that we need to build bridges and not walls,” said Mayor Baraka. “We need you to have the courage to say that black lives matter because all lives matter. We need students to know that women are our equals and sometimes better. We need to celebrate them and make sure they get paid for the same work that men do.”

Before students were each called up by name, President Cole told students that out of respect for all graduates, they would not be allowed to leave the arena until all graduates’ names had been called. This proved to be an issue among attendees of the winter graduation when they witnessed students walking out of the arena after walking across the stage while students’ names were still being read. A few students stepped out to the hallways to take pictures during the ceremony, but for the most part, the vast majority of students stayed throughout and till the end of the graduation ceremony.

The ceremony was live streamed on Montclair State’s website so people from home could view the commencement. The camera captured the students walking across the stage to shake the hand of President Cole or the dean from their respective college. Many waved to the camera or danced as they made their way across the stage, depicting feelings of pride, relief, joy and a myriad of other emotions that are associated with graduating from college.

However, there were some technical issues with the live stream that shut down the feed while the names of graduates were being called. There were glitches in the cameras on several occasions that affected the overall success of the ceremony in terms of making sure that both people in the Prudential Center and those at home could see everything going on.

Also, some students mentioned the high parking costs along with issues finding vacant spots. According to students, the parking lot across the street from the Prudential Center guest entrance charged a flat rate of $40 for the day. This coupled with the long ceremony and dreary weather caused a lot of traffic and stress for those attending the ceremony.

Tap dancer and choreographer Savion Glover administered his speech to students halfway through the announcement of graduates from the five schools. It seemed appropriate for Glover to speak to students at the spring commencement ceremony with May 25 being, coincidentally, national tap dance day.

Glover, who like his fellow keynote speaker Mayor Baraka, was also born in Newark, New Jersey. Glover said he is the man he is today because of the men and women in his life who served as mentors to encourage, teach and love him.

“I think that we are all artists…and we all see the world through our eyes,” said Glover. “And so, I encourage you to stay ferocious in your approach to success. I encourage you to dream and believe in your dreams and then make your dreams a reality.

“In the great words of one of my friends who are here, ‘It’s life. No one is getting out of here alive.’ So live it to the fullest and have fun.”

Savion Glover was honored by the presence of everyone in the arena and gave great words of wisdom to the graduates. Therese Sheridan | The Montclarion

2017 graduate Rizzlyn Melo also had some heartfelt words for her fellow classmates including a statement that anyone who has ever attended a Student Government Association (SGA) event can relate to.

“The most important thing I have taken from my time at Montclair State are the opportunities like free t-shirts from the student government,” said Melo. “You can you find them almost everywhere.”

For business major and 2017 graduate France Osmann, it still hasn’t hit her yet that she has graduated from Montclair State. Osmann is from Haiti and was able to skip two years of school when she came to the United States due to her prior education, making her a college graduate at the age of 20.

Family and child studies major Ashley Lane said the past four years have gone by quickly and she is proud of all her accomplishments while at Montclair State.

“I would not be here without the support of my family, friends and Newman Catholic,” said Lane.

Journalism major Jessica Amato described graduating as bittersweet but overall she is left feeling happy to be done and is excited for the future.

Recent graduates Stephanie Londono, a linguistics and Spanish translation major and Stasey Morales, a nutrition major, expressed how they felt moments after graduation.

They even directed a few last campus complaints to the Montclair State administration before departing for life after graduation.

From brothers to grandmothers, a variety of family members were on hand to watch their loved ones graduate.

“I’m very proud of her because she’s come a long way in life and this is a very special day,” said Judy Hatton, grandmother of Montclair State graduate Desiree Holloway who studied child advocacy.

Holloway’s other grandmother passed away but Hatton knows she is looking down on her granddaughter during graduation and not even the rain could put a damper on the special day for their family.

In the succeeding tassel ceremony after the last graduate was called, all the graduates ceremoniously moved their tassels from the right side of their graduation cap to the left side and they officially completed their journey to become Montclair State University graduates.

Graduates turn their tassels to the other side of their caps, as their days as undergrads have come to an end. Therese Sheridan | The Montclarion

President Cole gave advice to the graduates, in which she is sure they will hear it repeatedly over the course of their lives but is even more relevant as the graduates leave Montclair State to embark on a new chapter of their lives.

Another year, another commencement for Montclair State President Susan Cole. Therese Sheridan | The Montclarion

“You must never let anything stand between you and your future,” said President Cole. “Reach far, have courage and never give up on yourself.”

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