Gateway Community College Commencement Celebrates 809 Grads

Friday, May 24, 2019

Members of the Gateway Community College (GCC) Class of 2019 celebrated their graduation on Thursday, May 23 during the college’s 27th Commencement Ceremony at the Webster Bank Arena.

The Class of 2019 included 809 graduates.  GCC awarded 998 degrees and certificates.  Eleven New Haven Promise graduates and 15 veterans were among those who crossed the stage to accept their diplomas.

Stephen Fries, GCC professor of business, served as Grand Marshal for the ceremony.  Fries has been teaching at GCC for over 33 years and is one of the college’s longest serving faculty members.   The keynote speaker was alumna Maria Praeli, government relations manager at, whose journey since graduating from GCC included an internship on Capitol Hill and an opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama.

The Connecticut Army National Guard performed the presentation of colors and the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society, Pipes & Drums performed the processional.  Student Eilee Dingus performed the National Anthem.

Kim Shea, M.S.W. assistant professor and program coordinator for Human Services, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.  Tashyah Greene of Manchester, an outstanding student and active leader on campus, received a posthumous associate degree in Business Office Technology, which was received by her mother, Stacey McCoy Greene, and sister, Nakiyah Greene.

Stacey McCoy Greene said the moment “was a lovely tribute,” adding that she herself had been a high school dropout, wanted more for her daughters, and they developed a love of reading as preschoolers.  She said that Tashyah, a substitute teacher, loved learning and working with children.

“She was my number one cheerleader when I went back to school for my GED and Associate’s,” Stacey said.

William W. Ginsberg, president and chief executive officer at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, received an honorary associate degree.  Mark Kosinski, dean of Academic Affairs, described Ginsberg as “a staunch and unwavering supporter of the College and a champion for developing educational programs to meet workforce needs.”  Ginsberg offered words of encouragement to the Class of 2019.

“The diploma you receive today is a passport for lifelong learning and that is, in turn, your ticket to a place in the 21st century economy,” he said.

Mary Ellen Cody, dean of Development & Community Partnerships, introduced Jerry Franklin, the recipient of the President’s Award for Community Leadership.  Cody praised Franklin, recently retired president and chief executive officer of Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc., who was instrumental in bringing WNPR’s studio onto the GCC campus.  Cody noted that the alliance with WNPR is providing wonderful new opportunities to students.

Praeli, a 2014 graduate, spoke of how attending GCC transformed her life and she almost didn’t have the chance to attend college.  Although she moved to the U.S. when she was just five years old, she was undocumented.  She told graduates about how her status prevented her from fully participating in normal activities that her peers were enjoying during their teens, such as driving and getting a job.  

In 2012, her senior year of high school, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program made it possible for her to enroll at GCC.  Praeli’s position with focuses on reforming the immigration system.  She said that through her work, she has experienced being one of the only women, the only person of color and often the youngest person seated in powerful spaces on Capitol Hill.  Looking around, she questioned belonging in that space.  She encouraged graduates to push forward, using their past struggles to leverage themselves, wield power and demand a seat at the table for themselves as well.