EDISON, NJ - A total of 1596 degrees and certificates were awarded to 1558 students by Middlesex County College Tuesday, May 17 at the 49th annual Commencement exercises witnessed by approximately 3500 guests in the Expo Center in the Raritan Center.

Valedictorian Sridivya Raghavan delivered the class welcome, sharing her experiences and aspirations. Ms. Raghavan is a Liberal Arts/Business major.

“I did my early schooling in India and moved to the United States when my dad’s job brought him here,” she said. “I became a bookworm, thanks to J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter taught me the joy of reading and believing in magic. Middlesex County College became my Hogwarts. The professors here played a huge role in mentoring me, much like Harry Potter’s.

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“Now, if there is one thing I would like for you to remember, is that failure is inevitable. What is more important is learning from failure, and getting back up on your feet again. You may have heard about how J.K. Rowling, herself, bounced back from a failed marriage, loss of jobs, and abysmal poverty. She went back to doing what she does best, which is writing novels.

“The fact that we are here today means that we are successful. We do not need to fear failure. Live your life. Go on the next adventure! As Harry Potter taught me, anything is possible with belief and magic. Believe in yourselves and the world will be yours to conquer.”

Approximately 675 members of the Class of 2016 participated in the exercises, representing the 364 graduates of August 2015, 435 of January 2016 and 797 of May 2016. Participants included several students who fulfilled the requirements for more than one degree or certificate during this academic year.

Dr. Mark McCormick, vice president for academic and student affairs, presided. Greetings were delivered by Dr. Joann La Perla-Morales, College president; Dorothy K. Power, chairman of the Board of Trustees; and Ronald G. Rios, Freeholder director.

Professor Saul Kelton, of the History and Social Sciences Department, led the academic processional as grand marshal.

Dr. La Perla-Morales, sixth president of the College, conferred degrees and certificates to the graduates. Dr. McCormick presented the candidates for graduation.

Earlier in May, the College held an honors convocation for students with the highest academic achievement in each program. MCC also presented the Chambers Awards to graduates with a 4.0 grade point average, and the seven individuals were recognized during Commencement. They include Ms. Raghavan of Edison, the salutatorian, Erica L. Bergen (Edison), and Reginald Dizon (South Plainfield), John J. Losito (Carteret), Diana L. Bhagat (Colonia), Christopher Gately (East Brunswick), and Jennifer M. Hanley (Iselin).