Touro College NYSCAS Brooklyn, Manhattan Campuses Celebrate 46th Commencement in Virtual Ceremony
Two Outstanding Students From the Graduating Class, Yehuda Schon and Debra Albino, Were Highlighted as Valedictorians
New York School of Career and Applied Studies (NYSCAS), a division of Touro College, held its 46th commencement ceremony during a virtual event on Wednesday, June 17th. Over 600 members of the Class of 2020 received their baccalaureate degrees, more than 260 received their associate degrees, and 65 received certificates during the ceremony. The class includes students graduating with a variety of majors, ranging from biology and business to human services and computing; the graduates also represent diverse backgrounds, reflecting the overall population of New York City.
“Amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, our graduates have faced tremendous challenges,” said NYSCAS Dean Dr. Judah Weinberger. “However, they have continued to push forward while striving for excellence and have overcome these obstacles while leveraging a can-do spirit that will enable them to see ongoing success in their future careers.”
At the virtual ceremony, conducted via livestream, Dean Weinberger addressed the graduating class, saying that the perseverance and resilience the students showed especially during this last semester “will serve you well as you move forward.”
The president of Touro College, Dr. Alan Kadish, also greeted the graduating class. “As we all know, the circumstances dictated that we remain socially distanced today,” Dr. Kadish said. “But wherever you are, know that we remain together in spirit on this special day.”
Both Dean Weinberger and Dr. Kadish spoke about the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has sparked outrage globally, causing anti-racism protests all over the world. “You, as the next generation of educated leaders, must do better than we have done to build an inclusive and just society,” Dr. Kadish told the graduates. “Rather than losing hope and faith, let’s work together to build a better world.”
Over 1,300 viewers tuned in to watch the livestream. The school chose to honor four valedictorians—Debra Albino, Lori DeMeloitz, Yehuda Schon and Sara Wilhelm.
Yehuda Schon, a psychology major, was one of two valedictorians chosen to speak during the ceremony. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA and is headed to Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai in the fall. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
“I know many of us have been looking forward to this day for years,” he said. “But even if we can’t celebrate the way we’d expected, we can still make the best of this experience.”
In his speech, Schon thanked his professors and mentors at NYSCAS. “We all struggled to get here,” he told his peers, “but it was determination and hard work that led us to this incredible milestone, as we graduate from Touro College.”
Schon joined Touro College with the intention to pursue his dream of becoming a registered nurse. He worked hard and used all the resources NYSCAS offered to ensure he would succeed. During his first summer break in college, he took an EMT course and began working part-time in an ambulance. While in school, he also worked as a part-time chemistry tutor. “I aspire to be on the frontlines of health care, among the people who put others before themselves,” he said, adding that this year’s global pandemic made him even more confident in his career choice.
Debra Albino was the other valedictorian who spoke at the ceremony. Born and raised in Brooklyn, after graduating from high school, she spent two years at Brooklyn College, but her studies were interrupted. Over two decades later, when the opportunity arose for her to become a paraprofessional for the New York City Department of Education, she decided to return to college and enrolled in NYSCAS.
“I always knew I wanted to go back to college and get a degree,” she said. “Being one of the oldest students in the classroom, I was a little nervous at first, but I felt comfortable right away. NYSCAS offers a very multicultural, diverse environment. I felt inspired and encouraged; my professors and mentors made me feel like I could achieve anything I wanted.”
While pursuing her degree part-time, Albino continued working with Pre-K students and taking care of her family; she is a mother of three, one of whom is also studying at NYSCAS.
During her speech, Albino talked about her decision to return to college and the sense of belonging she felt at NYSCAS. “At Touro, we learned not just from our professors, but from each other, too,” she said, stressing the diversity of the student body.
“I’m not a quitter,” she said before the ceremony. “I ran the NYC Marathon twice; it was not about competing with anyone else, it was about doing my best and beating my own personal record. I’ve tried to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life, and especially to my college career. The goal is always to my personal best—I might not be the fastest, but I don’t quit until I get it done. Success is not the result of one huge leap, but it’s the culmination of hard work and positive effort throughout the journey.”