Queens College offers no in-person graduation, parents push back

Despite falling case numbers and an ever-growing number of vaccinations, Queens College still plans on holding no in-person graduation due to the pandemic. The CUNY school’s decision to holdout has generated harsh criticism from parents.

“For some families, this might be the first kid to ever graduate from college,” explained one distressed parent who contacted this paper. “They could plan it in a couple of days. All they need to do is set up a tent and hand out diplomas.”

Last year, Queens College and many other schools cancelled their in-person graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic. At that time Queens College pledged to offer 2020 graduates a ceremony later in the summer or fall, yet to date no such event has manifested itself.

This year, many of New York City’s colleges and universities have returned to in-person graduation ceremonies (including St. John’s, Fordham, and Adelphi). Queens College has not followed suit, and is only planning on screening a graduation video on YouTube in early June. The stubbornness has annoyed many.

“I’m a single parent and I’ve put everything towards helping my son graduate,” explained one mother. “Why can’t they organize something just for parents and for the kids to walk and grab their diplomas?”

“While Queens College would love to have an in-person commencement this year, it simply isn’t possible,” explained Maria Matteo, Assistant Director of Media and College Relations for Queens College. “Planning began back in December for the wonderful virtual commencement celebration of the Class of 2021 that will take place at 9 am on June 3. With approximately 2,500 graduates each year, along with their family members, faculty, alumni, and QC administrators, we normally exceed 10,000 people on the Quad during graduation. It was not possible to consider an event of that size this year when we factor in the health and safety protocols in place for the benefit of the campus community. The virtual celebration will bring the campus to the graduates, as we can’t bring the graduates to the campus.”

She continued: “In order to provide a safe, health-conscious alternative, at the end of April and the beginning of May Queens College held three weekends of photo experiences on campus for both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. Additional photo opportunities are being scheduled on June 28 and 29 for those who were not able to participate during the past sessions. President Wu met student leaders recently to discuss a possible in-person graduation event of some sort in the late Summer/early Fall. We are considering this, consistent with health and safety factors, and as details are developed, it will be shared with the QC community.”

Determined parents continue to lobby the school into changing its decision, even after the June 3rd virtual ceremony.

“They had an entire year to figure out a contingency plan,” an adamant critic explained. “A graduation can absolutely be put together within two to three days by renting a tent and making an announcement. To not do anything is a mistake, especially since they [Queens College] have plenty of outdoor space.”

“I teach my kids to never give up,” said one parent. “So I’m not giving up on this graduation.”

Names have been withheld per the request of those interviewed.

Queens High School Seniors Awarded Scholarships for Outstanding Leadership and Academic Success

Two graduating seniors at York Early College Academy in Jamaica, Queens, were awarded scholarships by a local philanthropic organization in recognition of their outstanding leadership abilities and academic excellence.

The students, Alicia Majid and Lorraine Benn, both graduated May 27 and each received a $1,000 scholarship from the Zara Charitable Foundation, a Jamaica-based charity run by the family that founded Zara Realty.

Lorraine, who plans to become a doctor, has been active in the community since her middle school days, creating educational workshops to ensure awareness of the need for more equitable healthcare access for LGBTQ youth and adults. She graduated with an A average.

Alicia, who plans to earn a degree in Public Administration and aspires to a career in public service, was elected by her peers to be the York Early College Academy student government secretary. She also graduates with an A average.

“These inspiring young women represent the very best of our city, our community, and our nation,” said Tony Subraj, co-Managing Partner of Zara Realty. “Our foundation is dedicated to helping the next generation of leaders realize their full potential, and with these scholarships, I am certain Alicia and Lorraine will continue on their path of success and continue improving the lives of their neighbors here in Queens and beyond.”

“Education is the most important building block for success, and these two scholarship winners have shown they have what it takes to accomplish their dreams,” said Amir Sobhraj, co-Managing Partner of Zara Realty. “Both are interested in pursuing studies that will prepare them for careers that have shown themselves during the pandemic to be essential for the overall well-being of our society. We are thrilled to share this accomplishment with them.”

“We are so thankful to the Zara Charitable Foundation for its focus on improving the lives of our students,” said York Early College Academy Principal Noah Angeles. “In addition to these scholarships, the foundation also dedicated our first student counseling center last year. We look forward to a continuing partnership with this wonderful local organization. Let me also say congratulations to Alicia and Lorraine, as well as to our entire 2021 graduating class. It has been a challenging year, and I am so proud of your success.”

The Zara Charitable Foundation funds educational, healthcare, and other initiatives. Zara Realty, based in Jamaica, is one of the largest providers of affordable housing in Queens, with over 10,000 resident units under management.

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