It was one of the hottest, most humid days of this summer, taking unimaginable detail management and many hours to accomplish.
But most of all, it took courage and an unwavering determination to provide students who had earned their college degree with a proper graduation ceremony, all during a pandemic.
This was the July 30 commencement ceremony at Brookdale Community College.
I have two daughters, my babies, who proudly walked across the “stage” which was set up in a parking lot, and received heartfelt congratulations and best wishes from Brookdale President Dr. David Stout, along with faculty and guests.
Masks and sanitizer were everywhere. “Pomp and Circumstance” played softly in the background as each of my beautiful graduates proudly walked across that stage. Graduation is really much more than receiving a degree or a paper diploma. It is a recognition, an acknowledgement of a job well done.
Along the road to the graduation stage, in our decorated cars, faculty and staff waved banners and noisemakers, shouting congratulations to us as we passed by.
Officers from the Brookdale Police Department stood outside for hours in hot and humid weather and graciously ran their sirens and waved as each car carrying graduates and their family members passed by. We all felt special, honored. It was so very personal, enormously touching and most of all, it mattered.
I have a large family. This is not my first graduation and it won’t be my last, but it truly will be my most memorable. This had to have been a trial to pull off and I am certain there were many people who told Dr. Stout and his staff to just forget it.
They likely told him the kids won’t care. They will “get over it” if there is no commencement ceremony. But Brookdale steadfastly planned for what, during the darkest days of April and May, seemed to be an impossible aspiration.
Over the years my kids and I have endured more comments than I would like to remember from people questioning why we chose Brookdale.
“My kid wouldn’t be caught dead going there,” is most memorable comment to me. I guess Brookdale wasn’t prestigious enough for them.
For us it was more a financial decision; we simply needed to get the first two years of a bachelor’s degree from Brookdale so we would not be heavily laden with college loans.
In the end, we found Brookdale provided small classes and faculty members who knew their students’ names and most of all cared about their students’ outcomes.
Brookdale simply does not get the credit it deserves. Dr. Stout and his staff, and the Brookdale Police Department, showed a sensitivity and level of concern for their graduates that I think graduates from private schools probably envy.
My daughters felt recognized, honored and celebrated for their achievement. Thank you to everyone who gave us a beautiful, unforgettable commencement ceremony.