(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2013)
Members of Roxbury Community College's Class of 2013, all 394 strong, beamed this afternon as they received their ticket to a better future. It was the largest graduating class in the school's 40-year history.
In his commencement speech, Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins told graduates that reaching their goals will take hard work.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Tompkins said at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. “You 394 graduates ... are dreamers who embrace education and opportunity. You chose the path of responsibility and possibility no matter the obstacles or the difficulties.”
“Every cause needs a champion, be our champions” Tompkins said. “Go forth for all to see how an education at Roxbury Community College will make this community, this Commonwealth, this country, and probably this planet a lot better.”
Diversity was also at the center of today's celebration.
Introductions were offered in many languages, including Haitian Creole, Spanish, , and Russian.
Twenty-eight percent, the largest segment of the class of 2013, will head off to work in health care field with their associate's degrees, the college said.
Eleven percent will start careers in nursing, the second-most-popular course of study, and another 11 percent will work in the criminal justice field, the third-most-popular major.
Some will continue on with their education, working for bachelor's and then later master's degrees. But for all of the 394, 71 percent of which are women, the degree is the step in the right direction toward their future.
“We are just so very proud our son is graduating,” said Nancy Sanchez, 47, of Boston, as she scanned the crowd for her son, Christopher Colon, 24.
Sanchez said education has always been a priority in her household, but for her son it wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t do it himself.
“He did it all on his own,” said Sanchez. “We encouraged him along the way, but for him education is important. He wants to be the example for other Hispanic youths.”
Dwight Thompson, 50, of Attleboro, was there to congratulate his sister-in-law, Carline Laguerre. He said he was so proud of her.
“I’m at UMass Boston right now studying finance so we’ve been pushing each other, but that’s what you have to do,” Thompson said. “You have to lead by example.”
Katy Abel, associate commissioner for external affairs of the state Department of Higher Education, told the group: “When I look out at this audience of graduates, you look outstanding. I can’t wait to see what you do with your education.”
The commencement capped a difficult year for RCC. In March, the college released a report chronicling systemic lapses over the past decade by former and current administrators that caused the school to violate federal campus safety laws and apparently lose track of a significant amount of money