“CCRI is a unique institution in that it takes all comers, problems and all. It says no matter what you may have been through, there is a home for you,” student speaker Chad MacFarlane said in his speech to his 1,800 fellow graduates Friday at the 49th annual Community College of Rhode Island Commencement.
MacFarlane’s story was moving, from being homeless through some of his high school years, two deployments to Iraq as a tank driver, and working in the Post Office in Florida. He thought it all culminated to “You shouldn’t be here” when it came to higher education.
That is until CCRI.
He commended fellow graduates, saying they, too, have had their struggles but assured, “Through all these chapters of my life thus far, like you, I have endured, persevered.”
CCRI has helped MacFarlane change his self-image from “You don’t belong here” to “We need you here.”
After the applause finally died down, MacFarlane was then thanked and awarded for speaking at the commencement with a new Kindle by President Pasquale.
The graduation ceremony was held in Warwick in the Vincent A. Cullen Field House. With the field house packed with graduates with bejeweled and decorated caps as well as family and friends, CCRI held a live stream viewing in the Bobby Hackett Theater.
President Ray Di Pasquale welcomed all and was the first to formally congratulate the class of 2014. He told stories of students and expressed great pride in not only his students but also his over 62,000 alumni.
Pasquale acknowledged that every student had help somehow along their education and said, “We realize that others helped us to get here today, and it’s only right that we pay that forward.”
Also speaking were Governor Lincoln Chafee, Senator Jack Reed, Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline and Eva-Marie Mancuso, the Board of Education chairwoman.
They all congratulated the new graduates and wished their best in moving forward. Representative David Cicilline acknowledged that many of CCRI’s students are in difficult circumstances and their education has also included learning to balance their life, whether that is with children or multiple jobs or coming back to school after an absence. Cicilline reminded the graduates with a parting Nelson Mandela quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
CCRI’s president Ray Di Pasquale believed his students would do just that mentioning that CCRI’s nursing program scored the highest in Rhode Island testing and that, in his opinion, “CCRI nurses are the best in the state.”
Mancuso encouraged the CCRI graduates to “live the CCRI graduate way,” encouraging education in others and using their degrees to prosper.
Finally, Pasquale introduced Dr. Greg Lamontagne, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Lois Wims, Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr. Peter Woodberry, Dean of Business, Science and Technology and Dr. Maureen McGarry, Dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences to confer the degrees for the graduates.