Diversity Brings GCC Students Together at Graduation

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Gateway Community College’s Class of 2019, which has commencement on Thursday, May 23, includes many students who have overcome challenges to get the chance to accept their degree.

Commencement begins at 11:00 a.m. at the Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main Street, Bridgeport.  The keynote speaker is Maria Praeli, government relations manager at FWD.us, herself a GCC graduate.

This year’s graduates include Esther Edwards, 69, of New Haven, who earned an associate degree in business office technology, Gail Williams who earned an A.S. in Human Services, and twins Rhoda and Rhodaline Osei of Hamden, who are from Ghana and join their father, alumnus Sam Osei, in obtaining degrees from GCC.

Sidelined during an extended illness, Edwards was assured by her boss that her job would be kept open, explaining to her “you’re too old, no one would hire you.”  Edwards learned that she was out of a job during a medical appointment, when her doctor informed her that her insurance had been terminated.  She started applying for jobs and realized that her skills needed updating and decided to enroll at GCC.

“You have to have a Plan B,” Edwards said, explaining the need to be ready for the unexpected.

Identical twins Rhoda and Rhodaline Osei, 22, graduated from high school in Ghana in 2015 and began at GCC shortly thereafter.  The idea of moving to the United States was both exciting and “kind of scary,” said Rhoda, especially because of the differences in British English.  Their father, Sam, encouraged them “to be the best, wherever you go,” Rhoda said.

The Hamden residents are both Certified Nursing Assistants and earned admission to the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society while at GCC.  They will continue their studies at Southern Connecticut State University.  Rhoda will study criminal justice and Rhodaline will pursue business administration.

For New Haven resident Gail Williams, 60, graduating from GCC with an A.S. in Human Services is life-changing.  Williams battled a drug problem for years before discovering a love of education and a new purpose.

“It saved me,” said Williams, who will be joined in celebrating with her four adult children, ages 36 to 42.