Seated in the Campus Quadrangle, the students anxiously looked on while their mentors and school leaders praised their years of hard work before sending them off to tackle the next chapters of their lives.
Senator Charles Schumer praised the parents for their dedication to their children, and reminded the students of their endless potential as a college graduate, something that “only a third of young people” achieve.
“Even among those third, the education you got here in Queens is much better than most,” Schumer told the students. “So educationally, you have a real leg up.”
Patryk Perkowski was raised in a working-class family that emigrated from Poland, and following years of personal travels and studies, he graduated last week with a degree in mathematics and economics and as valedictorian of his class.
Before delivering his speech to the crowd of his peers, he celebrated on the Quadrangle stage by turning his back to the crowd for a group selfie.
“We did it,” he said. “But we didn’t do it alone. As we celebrate our successes, we celebrate the sacrifices of those around us. Our families and friends, our professors and advisors, and anyone else who kept us on track.”
Perkowski plans to travel out west following graduation for a job with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
After his speech, alumna Carol Fredricks Jantzen, who won national recognition for her work with glass chemistry and the disposal of high-level nuclear waste, received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater at the ceremony.
Borough President Melinda Katz cheered on the graduates of 2014, encouraging them to remember the borough where they spent their last four years when they move on to pursue their own careers.
“I am so proud of this great borough of Queens, and I am so proud of all of you who are graduating from one of our best institutions in the entire world,” Katz said. “But with that comes a responsibility to live your life, to work hard, to make Queens College proud.”