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PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College will celebrate the most resilient graduates in its history during a live stream virtual commencement ceremony Thursday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m. Bergen President Eric M. Friedman will preside over the ceremony – his first as the College’s president – that will recognize nearly 2,800 students.

“Commencement marks the most important day of the academic year, providing an opportunity for the College to recognize our graduates’ success,” President Friedman said. “While this always represents a special occasion, it’s particularly exciting for the class of 2021 due to the extraordinary circumstances they’ve overcome during the past two years to reach this day.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students graduating as part of the class of 2021 have not taken an in-person class since March of last year when the College pivoted to remote operations. Others, specifically those in health professions programs, followed a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols (such as wearing masks, submitting to daily thermal temperature screenings and practicing physical distancing) to complete on-campus coursework mandated by accrediting agencies.

Additionally, and for the second consecutive year, the pandemic forced the institution to forgo its traditional commencement celebration, which had taken place at MetLife Stadium since 2016. This year’s virtual event will feature the same trappings of a traditional in-person commencement exercise, including remarks from government officials, the reading of graduates’ names and plenty of pomp and circumstance. The online format will also offer certain advantages such as providing family and friends from around the world the opportunity to participate in real-time via social media. Adding a personal touch, graduating students have submitted photos and messages to include as part of the ceremony as well.

As the top student in the graduating class, valedictorian Crystal Yoo, of Hackensack, will deliver remarks. Class of 2021 graduates Genesis Capellan, of Englewood, will sing the National Anthem and Student Government Association President Laila Metwaly, of Fairview, will close the ceremony by leading her peers in turning their tassels.

The class of 2021 features high school students from Cliffside Park, Garfield, North Arlington and eight others earning degrees as part of the College’s early college program, members of the Turning Point Program for students with intellectual disabilities and members of the College’s world-renowned Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society of two-year colleges.

Lynn Tincher-Ladner, Ph.D., the president and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa International, will deliver the keynote address, not only recognizing the College’s sustained excellence as part of the organization, but offering a message of hope, resilience and perseverance for all members of the graduating class.

“Dr. Tincher-Ladner represents one of the most respected voices among community college leaders,” President Friedman said. “She remains the ultimate advocate for access and inclusion – hallmarks of community colleges – and our students. I’m grateful that she will lend her positivity to this year’s commencement exercises.”

As president and CEO of PTK, an organization with 1,285 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, U.S. territorial possessions and ten sovereign nations and more than 3.5 million inductees since its founding in 1918, Tincher-Ladner has prioritized removing barriers to higher education. She earned a Ph.D. in community college leadership from Mississippi State University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III and Bergen County Board of Commissioners Chair Steve Tanelli will also provide remarks at commencement 2021. Retiring professor Lynda Box, Ph.D., will open the ceremony as grand marshal.

To watch commencement 2020, visit youtube.com/bergencommcollege, Bergen.edu or any of the College’s official social media channels on May 13 at 5:30 p.m.

Since its inception, Bergen has grown into the state’s largest community college with approximately 13,000 students taking classes this semester. The College ranks No. 1 in New Jersey for associate degree graduates.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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