Middlesex County College Graduation Address
Valedictorian for the Class of 2013, Christina Catalano
Congratulations class of 2013.
Let's be honest. I was not the best student in high school -- certainly nowhere near Valedictorian. I went to Middlesex because everyone in my family went there. It made sense. It was affordable and convenient, and did not require me to take SATs or fill out a long application.
When I arrived to class early on the first day, I sat next to the only student in an otherwise empty room. She had clearly been there a while, with all of her books out and ready, with a pencil neatly placed next to her notebook. She turned to me and said, “Are you nervous?” It was her first time attending an American school after living in Pakistan her whole life. This education was no small matter to her. She had to succeed. That girl inspired me. While I was a lazy high school graduate, attending MCC just to save money, she saw Middlesex as opportunity. A gift she would be only given once. That day, I decided to shape up. I did not have to travel 7000 miles to go to Middlesex. My education waited right outside my door and I was going to grab it by the horns and run full force. My first semester at college would not be like high school. This gift would lay the foundation for the rest of my life.
Middlesex may not have been the first choice for many of you, but I believe it was the right choice for all of us. This school, filled with people from all different backgrounds and all levels of education, gave me hope that I too, could excel. I am inspired to go on to be a physical therapist and am on my way to a greater future thanks to Middlesex and to this young, hopeful girl from Pakistan. I came to cherish my experience here, gifted with professors who guided me through every step.
Professors Erin Christensen and Trace Gerow had significant impact on my growth at Middlesex. While taking Dr. Christensen's Bio 1 class, it became clear that she was a mother; tough with her students, yet always looking for them to succeed. It was certainly one of my most challenging courses at Middlesex (and caused me just as much stress as any great course should). But through that challenge, I gained a solid understanding of scientific writing.
Dr Trace Gerow was my Biology 2 professor as well as my mother's professor in the 70s, back when the Grizzly Adams look was still cool. Always arriving to class with a smile and an uplifting attitude, Professor Gerow will truly be missed after his retirement this year. I wish I had time to tell you about all of the wonderful professors I had here – like Rachel Turoscy, who was always in her office early before class to answer my endless number of questions – and Steven Barnhart, my introduction to psychology professor, who taught me that it is possible to learn just as much, if not more, from an online class as from one on campus. Most importantly, I had support and motivation from a wonderful boyfriend and alumnus of MCC, Michael Winter, and loving parents who were by my side with every paper and every exam. Without your help and the help of everyone in the tutoring center, I do not know how I would have made it through some of my toughest classes.
I will never forget the great memories I shared with the Biology Society: skiing and zip-lining in Virginia, and catching a glimpse of James Watson, who mapped the sequence of DNA, in Cold Spring Harbor. During my time here at Middlesex, numerous clubs and organizations have begun and grown tremendously. We were here during the first student government meetings. They were messy and confusing. Most of us had no idea what we were doing, but what is a college experience without learning, right? We influenced the school’s decision on parking expansion and began a food service committee to improve meal quality on campus. Any small changes we made while we were here have given us valuable leadership and organizational experience we could not have gained through class time alone.
Education is not a two-year, four-year, or even eight-year process. Education lasts a lifetime. Everything we have learned here at Middlesex will only grow into more as we learn to apply our experience to our lives and our careers. No matter what your path was at MCC, you are now graduates. You have a college degree and you are ready to take on the world outside of the classroom. Some of us are moving on to four-year universities, while others are ready to enter into new careers. Whichever direction you are headed in, remember where it all began.
Middlesex County College.
A college for achievers.
A college for lost high school graduates to discover their path.
A college for single mothers to go back to school to have the career they wanted.
A college for post-graduates to enter a new field of study, expand their abilities, and excel their career.
A college for international students eager to take on a new opportunity in a new country.
So I say to you class of 2013, wherever your future takes you, remember all that you have learned here at Middlesex County College. Recognize true opportunity. Some only come once. So when it comes, grab it!
As a wise student by the name of Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Thank you class of 2013 and congratulations!!