BCC Graduates 330
Co-valedictorians Amanda Garceau and Lucas Kowalczyk both shared their unique journeys that led them to the stage celebrating their graduation.
The school awarded 342 degrees or certificates to 330 BCC students on the sun-filled Friday.
College President Paul Raverta said these stories — from a student from the Congo to a woman who has been laid off to students working their way through school — reflect the school's character.
"Every graduate has a unique story to tell. Collectively these stories convey the transformative power of the BCC experience," Raverta said. "Now, more than ever, community colleges, including BCC, play an essential role in addressing the country's need for education opportunity and innovation in order to sustain economic growth."
While the obstacles were not the same for every student, they all joined together at Tanglewood on a sunny Friday afternoon to hug, cheer, and be with their friends and families to celebrate the end of a chapter. The college, community and school celebrated the awarding of 342 associate degrees and certificates of completion.
"We all stand for you, joining as a chorus on this Tanglewood stage, to congratulate you," state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, told the graduates. "I hope the journey you are on on has obstacles... a pathway without obstacles leads nowhere."
For Amanda Garceau, co-valedictorian, the journey to higher education was filled with obstacles. At age 24, her husband died from a heart condition and her daughter was born with the same problem. Later, she found out she had breast cancer. After defeating that she turned her attention to physical fitness and now focuses on keeping others healthy.
"When I chose to enroll in BCC at the age of 29 with three small children at home, there were those who told me that I couldn't do it," Garceau said. "There are members of graduating class who have overcome so many obstacles; from teenagers searching for a balance between newfound freedom and home obligations, to grandparents mastering the use of computers for the first time to write an English paper. Widows, widowers, single parents, abused partners, learning disabled to mentally ill, either themselves or supporting a love one who is suffering thus. We do not all have the same obstacles."
She encourages her classmates to continue following the motto that reflects the campus — the motto she teased Downing for misquoting earlier in the ceremony — "to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive."
The Shed at Tanglewood was filled with the graduates family and friends, who cheered loudly for their loved ones.
William H. Colby was given the college's Professor Emeritus Award.
"Let's enjoy the journey and see where life takes us. I don't ever want my to become predictable, so it's okay not to know all the answers," Kowalczyk told his classmates. "Only you know how much work it took to get here, so you should congratulate yourself; don't ever let anyone minimize this accomplishment. Our graduation today is a reflection of a collaboration — the studying we did reflected back by the efforts of our dedicated professors. I hope that it is and always will be clear that Berkshire Community College was the right choice."
Even the keynote speaker Mark Orlowski led an untraditional route. Orlowski dropped out of high school at age 14 and began working part-time jobs. A year later, he began to take classes at BCC and later went to Williams College. At age 28, he founded the Sustainable Endowments Institute in Cambridge that has pioneered research and education to advance conservation.
"I would not be where I am if it wasn't for BCC," Orlowski said.
Orlowski challenged the students to "build bold visions" because while the world faces many challenges there are great opportunities that are arising.
"The world is increasingly complicated now," he said. "It is said that if you want to go somewhere quickly, go alone. If you want to go somewhere far, go with others. Right now, we all have to go far quickly."
Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, asked the students, after giving a few jabs at House colleague Paul Mark, D-Hancock, over his odd cap and gown, to always remember the opportunities and challenges the students have faced here in Berkshire County.
"I am seeing the change in diversity and demographics in Berkshire County," Pignatelli said.
The ceremony also honored professor William Corby with the Professor Emeritus Award and gave President's Awards to both Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and Patrick Muraca, a BCC alumni who now runs Nuclea Biotechnologies.
More photos are available here.
Local graduates, listed by city and state, are:
Lakeville: Sharon Bombard
New Haven: Shawn Liccardi
North Canaan: Kara Zinke
Torrington: Diane Azeez
Adams: Deniell Burdick, Amanda Clerc, Keith Conklin, Amanda Cornellier, Joshua Gancarz, Kimberly Gilman, Crystal Howcroft, Amitpal Kharbanda, Joanne Kozik, Daniel Ouellette and Dianna Perras
Agawam: Rafael Pereira
Becket: April Gardner and Gerard Greene
Cheshire: Joshua Burdick, Kelley Burzimati, Bruce Gaspardi Jr., Andrew Horn Jr., Brandy Kruszyna, Kolin Lic, Darryl Lipinski, Carly Lyons, Joseph Meyette, Julia Phykitt, Michele Rickert, Brian Stokes and Garry Syrett
Chesterfield: Nicole Bourassa
Chicopee: Kimberly Hickson
Clarksburg: Branden Simard
Colrain: Katherine Shearer
Dalton: Angela Avanzato, Matthew Bacon, Matthew Brooks, Michael Cachat Jr., Kristyn Cobb, Becky Daley, Jennifer Dewey, David DiNicola, Elisha Evangelisto, Amanda Garceau, Joshua Kasala, Casimir Makowski Jr., Matthew McLeod, Kellie-Jean Partridge, Sarah Petell, Jeramiah Russell, April Tarbox, Michael Van Deusen, Kevin Van Fleet, Timothy Walsh, Gina Walto, David Wasielewski, Joshua Weatherwax, Alan Will, Ashley Winters and Michael Wrzesinski
Drury: Chelsea Gancarz
East Otis: Brandon Tribula
Great Barrington: Jessica Dezieck, Vickie Lea, Nardorelle Milandou-Ngouamossi, John Rybacki and Jessica Sarno.
Greenfield: Alicia Manica
Hancock: Andrew LeBarron
Hinsdale: Amy Baldasaro, Luke Derby, Colleen Marshall, Laura Marshall, Amos Pike, Colleen Reardo and Jennifer Vigeant
Housatonic: Kathleen Filek, Craig Ptak and Linda Shaw
Lanesborough: Heather Danylin, Katie-Rose Decandia, Gary Fountaine, Christena Keyes and Brian Marquis
Lee: Clayton Beauchaine Jr., Justin Biasin, Brittany Brouker, Brett Connors, Luke Egan, Lucinda Gable, Jessica Griffith, Robert Haywood, Katherine Heath, Jennifer Hersch, Lucas Kowalczyk, Michael Maroney, Brendan Metzner, Jason Metzner, Keith O'Neil, Collette Plaquet, Maureen Soules, Jessica Thorne, Jennifer Viola and Zachary Zeller
Lenox: Evan Collins, Ashley Crockwell, Michaela Duval, Eric Frost, Anthony Gardino, Katherine Landers, Deja Londono, Mary Menatti, Danielle Paquette, Keyur Patel, Michael Reynolds, Bliss Rufo, Eric Sundman and Mikko Tagole
Lenox Dale: Omar Fiallos, Kileen Miller and Ashley Emiliano
Middlefield: Akiko Fry
Monterey: Christine Caccamo and Kelly Hadsell
North Adams: Yvette Agustin, Teresa Boucher, Amber Briggs, Sara Chilson, Jessica Kemp, Brenda McMahon, Maris Owczarski, Francis Rodriguez III, Ashley Roy, Kristy Samson and Kimberly Sullivan
Otis: Michele Fitzgerald, Joshua LaGrant and Justin LePrevost
Oxford: Briana Paris
Peru: Ashley Battaini and Christina Morrison
Pittsfield: Gilles Abellie, Kristin Accetta, Deborah Adams, Bismark Addy, Kenneth Arnhold, Jorja Bagnera, Anthony Bah, Brianna Barnes, Rene Batho, Tamara Beet, Michael Belair, Kyle Berard, Nakeida Bethel-Smith, Dawn Betters, Emmanuel Bile, Lynne Bishop, Kylie Boos, Kathryn Bradley, Pamela Brewster, Laurie Brindle, Mallory Brindle, Travis Burnell, Kimberly Burnick, Kaitlin Caesar, Brian Calebaugh, Andy Cambi, Rebecca Carmel, Daniel Carmon, Justin Cartier, Lyndsay Cimini, Carrie Clement, Robin Cookis, Lynn Crennan, Zachary Cutler, James Czarnecki, Jennifer Czarnecki, Nathan D'Angona, Erin D'Avella, Alexandra Demastrie, Mark DeNovellis, Joanne DiPietro, Jessica DiSantis, Judith Dorr, Cynthia Dougherty, Jenna Driscoll, Joy Duffy, Allyson Dunham, Josiphine Febles, Samantha Ferraro, Deana Fitch, Kevin Flynn, Dona Fresia, Rebekah Gamache, Amber Gamello, Susan Goddard, Dana Grieb, Michael Gromacki, Sarah Guidetti, Jenna Hamilton, Jessica Hamling, Jonathan Hanson, Gerould Harding, Charles Harrigan, Jennifer Harrington, Katherine Harrington, Donsil Harris, Rebecca Haskell, Stephanie Heath, Heather Horgan, Jarrett Hoskeer, Kelle Hostetter, Ashley Houghtlin, Jason Hover, Elizabeth Kadar, Marina Karapanagiotes, Kayla Keyes, Nickolaus Kuni, Michaunda Kyse, Christine LaBeau, Adrian Lallatin, Genese Latini, Daniel Leibinger, Kayla Lekov, David Letalien, Jennifer Lighten, Ana Linha, James Lipoufski, Debra Malossini, Rian Martin, Michael McCormick, Kyle McGrath, Jessica McMahon, Stephany Morrison, Derek Murphy, Kangwa Musonda, Judith N'Gumah, Robert O'Donnell, Gabriel Ortiz, Afua Osei-Kuffour, Emilie Papa, Leah Parker, Nicholas Parmelee, Ariana Peralta, James Pyne III, Erin Raftery, Jurate Ramirez, Jordan Reynolds, Tonya Reynolds, Rebecca Ringer, Justin Rivelli, Devon Roller, Chanpanhra Ros, Virakpanha Ros, Heather Rowley, Aimee Roy, Emily Ruel, Garrett Russell, Jennifer Ryan, Sylvia Sacchetti, Teneisha Saunders, Jessica Schrump, Brian Shaffer, Scott Shaker, Neera Sharma, Cheryl Shaw, Robert Sicurello, Kristen Silveira, Nicholas Simeone, Michelle Sitzer, Jason Smith, Krysten St. John, Derek Strzepa, Carrie Taylor-O'Neil, Clinas Taylor, Rebecca Testa, Nancy Tran, Thomas Troiano, Tony Tsang, Caitlyn Tuggey, Julia Turner, Lyndsey Turner, Gabrielle Vanderpool, Meaghan Weeden, James Wetherell, Suzanne White, Jenna Williams, Katherine Wood, Ashlee Zanconato, Amy Zarazinski, Jennifer Zatorski and Amanda Zieminski
Richmond: Christie Carusotto and Jamie Donald
Sandisfield: Melissa Baker
Sheffield: Catrina Carolan, Gordon Hamm and Keslie Lewis
Springfield: Beth Njuguna and Trudy-Ann Wilson
Stockbridge: Sara Aubois and Sarah Hoecker
Tolland: Heather Wilson
Washington: Margaret Macha and Natalie Weissbrod
West Stockbridge: Kimberly Beebe, Sharleen Beebe and William Davis
Williamstown: Hannah Graether, Alex Moody, Leslie Orton-Mahar and Sarah Williams
Windsor: Zachary Marcotte and Brenden Trela
Worthington: Judith Babcock and Lynn Lak
Brant Lake: Robert LeBlanc
Kinderhook: Michelle Cachet and JoAnn Regan-Keller
Nassau: Amber Munsinger
New Lebanon: Suzanne Byrne, Crystal Curtiss, Marjorie Hohlstein and Patrick Tuthill
Niverville: Samantha Tillman
Valatie: Cecilia Stevens
Stamford: Ann Fyfe.
In addition to traditional-aged students and nontraditional students such as Garceau and Lucas Yannis-Kowalczyk, this year's graduating class includes students from Congo, India, Portugal, Poland, Latin America and Cambodia.