A Chancellor’s View: Celebrating The Bravery And Perseverance Of The 50,000-Plus Members Of The CUNY Class Of 2020

A Chancellor’s View: Celebrating the Bravery and Perseverance of the 50,000-Plus Members of the CUNY Class of 2020

Rosa Jimenez, a senior at the City University of New York (CUNY), has been serving as an emergency medical technician in the Bronx since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the challenges, she managed to complete her bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

On May 27th, Jimenez and her fellow classmates participated in a virtual commencement ceremony, where they were overwhelmed with emotions as they listened to inspiring messages of encouragement and hope from the speakers.

During the virtual ceremony, there was a special segment that showcased video tributes from the graduates. They shared their initial impressions of the campus, the memorable moments spent with friends, the opportunities provided by the university, and the sadness they felt when their in-person college experiences came to an end.

In those moments, Jimenez reflected on her own final semester, where she worked long nights treating COVID-19 patients and struggled to find a peaceful place to study. It dawned on her that if she could overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic, she would be able to overcome any obstacles that come her way in the future.

While this year’s ceremonies may be virtual, the significance of these milestones remains real. The absence of a traditional graduation procession cannot diminish the importance of this moment for the graduates of the largest urban public university in the nation.

To honor the resilient Class of 2020, CUNY released a celebratory end-of-the-year video. This 18-minute tribute includes performances from students at the Conservatory of Music of Brooklyn College and The Macaulay Triplets, an a cappella ensemble from Macaulay Honors College. The video also features congratulatory messages from valedictorians, salutatorians, speakers, college presidents, deans, and numerous well-wishers.

For over 50,000 members of the Class of 2020, this has been an exceptionally challenging period as they confronted unprecedented disruptions, uncertainties, and anxieties to successfully complete their academic year. Despite these difficulties, they showed strength and supported one another, adapting quickly to distance learning and persevering until the end.

Among these students is Jasmine Euyoque, a senior at Lehman College and the first in her family to attend college. She received a Fulbright U.S. Student Scholarship and will spend a year teaching English in Uruguay while inspiring young people to explore opportunities in technology.

Another inspiring student is Jaweria Bakar from Kingsborough Community College. Originally from Pakistan, Bakar was inspired to become a doctor after her father’s recovery from a stroke. This spring, she was one of three high-achieving CUNY community college students to receive the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which will support her continued pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at Yale.

Jimenez, Euyoque, and Bakar exemplify the selflessness and dedication shared by many of their fellow CUNY graduates. Their commitment to advancing their communities has been particularly highlighted during the pandemic.

Their achievements reaffirm the values of CUNY as a transformative force for families from diverse backgrounds around the world. It is why I remain optimistic and excited about their futures.

These exceptional students also exemplify why commencement season is the highlight of the school year for me. It is a time to recognize and celebrate their extraordinary accomplishments.

CUNY has been hosting virtual commencements featuring speakers from various fields, including government, philanthropy, and the sciences. I have had the privilege of participating in many of these celebrations and addressing the graduates of several schools, including the first graduating class of CUNY’s School of Medicine. These courageous students completed their studies ahead of schedule to join the fight against COVID-19, and many have been volunteering at medical centers across the city.

As I’ve expressed to our students, the Class of 2020 has shown incredible determination that continues to inspire. We know they will continue to make a significant difference in the health and well-being of our communities, our city, our nation, and beyond. I am incredibly proud of them and congratulate them on a job well done.

Felix V. Matos Rodriguez serves as the chancellor of the City University of New York.

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  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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