PARAMUS, N.J. — Bergen Community College will host its 50th commencement exercises this year online.
On Monday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. at what was initially planned a ceremony at their usual location, East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium, the Class of 2020, comprised of more than 2,000 candidates for graduation, will instead watch the proceedings via a live stream on YouTube. For almost two months, New Jersey’s largest community college, which has currently 13,000 students enrolled, was forced to indefinitely shutter its doors when the Covid-19 crisis first ballooned in the United States in March, with New Jersey’s first confirmed cases right in Bergen County.
In the fashion of an in-person commencement ceremony, the live stream will include remarks from government officials and the reading of graduates’ names. What’s more, this online format will afford family, friends and whoever wishes to tune in from around the world to spectate in real-time by way of social media. Graduates have also submitted photos and messages to include in the ceremony.
Bergen Interim President Tony Ross, Ed.D., will emcee the stream, while Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III and Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chair Mary Amoroso will deliver speeches. Opening the ceremony as grand marshal will be Nursing professor Carmen Cruz-Torres, who has recently spent time working as a nurse caring for high-risk obstetric patients and screening for COVID-19 at St. Joseph’s Family Health Center.
United States Senator Cory Booker will be the keynote speaker in this year's 50th commencement ceremony.
“Senator Booker represents an inspirational leader from whom our graduates can aspire to become,” Bergen Board of Trustees Chair Gerard L. Carroll said. “He’s a hometown hero for Bergen County, growing up in Harrington Park and graduating from Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, making his story one that our graduates can relate.”
As New Jersey’s first African-American senator, Booker, a Stanford and Yale University alum, joined the U.S. Senate in 2013 and has championed such causes including equity for all Americans, greater access to healthcare and the protection of the environment, among others.
John W. Davis, Ph.D., of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was Bergen Community College’s first keynote speaker in 1970.
Valedictorian Maciej Szajwaj and Student Government President Bernadette Duran will also deliver remarks. Szajwaj, of Wallington, is a nursing student and one of the Class of 2020’s 60 students who have a 4.0 GPA. Szajwaj, along with more than 1,100 students, learn BCC’s Health Professions Integrated Teaching Center. Featured are SMART classrooms, a simulation center for labor and delivery, ambulatory pediatrics and emergency room, among others.
Duran, of Bergenfield, plans to transfer to Montclair State or William Paterson University, to earn her bachelor’s degree in Education. Among her extracurricular activities, Duran partook in the college’s internationally recognized chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
Members of the Class of 2020 also includes members of the Turning Point Program for students with intellectual disabilities and two New Jersey All-State Academic Team honorees (Jenna Santacroce, of Saddle Brook, and Erisa Ganellari, of Garfield).
Tune into youtube.com/bergencommcollege, Bergen.edu, or any of the College’s official social media channels on May 18 at 5:30 p.m. to view the proceedings.