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More than 13,000 MDC Graduates Will Receive their Diplomas, May 4, including many Top Students already on the Pathway to Career and Community Success !


Miami, April 26, 2013 - Miami Dade College (MDC) graduates will have one last thought as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas: the tassel was worth the hassle. More than 13,000 students from MDC’s seven campuses and two centers, representing 185 countries, will toss their hats into the air during Miami Dade College’s (MDC) five Commencement Ceremonies, Saturday, May 4.   

Their outstanding academic achievements and contributions to the community are a few of the stellar traits these future leaders will take with them as they embark on a new journey. They will choose a path as diverse as their upbringing, in law, international relations, and medicine, among others. Many have been accepted into the most prestigious universities in the U.S. to complete upper division studies or graduate degrees.

Meet some of this spring’s extraordinary students:   

When Frank Pellegrino completed high school five years ago, college wasn’t his first choice. It was public service. He had risen to Eagle Scout and decided to join the Marine Corps. Now graduating from MDC with a 4.0 GPA with intelligence experience under his belt and the backing of a solid education, Pellegrino has a boundless future before him in his dream field: international relations. During his time with the Armed Forces, Pellegrino served as an intelligence analyst. “I got the feel for international relations and learned a lot about the inner workings of our country and other countries,” he said. At MDC’s Hialeah Campus, Pellegrino learned German, served as president of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, head delegate for the Model United Nations, managing editor of the award-winning Café Cultura literary magazine and vice president of the photography club. His goal is to work for a government intelligence agency such as the CIA, FBI, or NSA.

Rocio Sevilla Dieguez loves working behind the scenes. The mass communications major will graduate from MDC’s Honors College at Wolfson Campus with a 3.88 GPA. She’s eager to continue the fast-paced career in media production that began with a Nickelodeon internship. An assistant coach for a field hockey team outside of school, Dieguez is a pro at thinking on her feet. But, her first true test of quickly adapting to a new reality came at age 11, when she, her parents, and four siblings moved to Miami from Argentina with no more than a suitcase each and three days’ time to prepare for a new school year in a foreign land. “There was a lot of insecurity in Argentina at the time,” said Dieguez, now 19, referring to the country’s fiscal crisis of the early 2000s. When her father and 4-year-old brother were carjacked at gunpoint, her parents decided it was time to go. Despite the abrupt new start, Dieguez became an exemplary student. At MDC, she has received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for hundreds of community service hours. “One of the best things about MDC is that it teaches you how to be a leader,” she said.

Among Andres Roque’s missions in life is to continue to give back to the community. With more than 200 service hours under his belt, and a 4.0 GPA to boot, Roque is applying to top-notch schools such as Stanford University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to pursue a career in psychology. “I want to become a licensed Clinical Psychologist so I can help people struggling through issues in life. More specifically I want to help veterans returning from war who have PTSD. They have given so much for our country and my wish is to do the best I can to help them.” Roque chose MDC’s Honors College to learn leadership skills. Those skills prepared him for the director of the treasury position for the Phi Theta Kappa, at Wolfson Campus. “My goals were to graduate with a 4.0, be involved in student life, and serve in my community,” he said. Andres Roque has met his goals! 

Yang Li is fresh off the winner’s platform at the state-wide Math Olympics. This mathematical mastermind from North Campus captured first place on the individual competition. Graduating with a 3.94 GPA in mathematics, this Honors College student plans to pursue a career in electrical engineering. Among his top picks are Georgia Tech, the University of Minnesota, Penn State University, and the University of Florida, among others. Having completed the majority of his studies in China, Li’s first step when he arrived in Miami was to continue his passion for mathematics and enroll at MDC. During his first semester, he joined the Math Club. A year later, he served as its president. But Li isn’t all left-brained. He also loves music. He plays the piano and competed in national, Chinese talent competitions. He plans to return to his native China to work as an engineer or professor.      

When his native Haiti was devastated by an earthquake in 2010, Joseph Veve Max II’s interest in becoming a civil engineer grew stronger. Veve enrolled at the North Campus in the hopes to dive into what has always fascinated him – standing structures such as houses, buildings, and sky-scrapers. Achieving a 3.9 GPA wasn’t easy.  “My greatest obstacle was language since I did high school in Haiti.  I also had to become very disciplined,” he said.  President of the Haitian Club and voted as the most outstanding member of North Campus’ Math Club, Veve still finds time to get involved in the local, Haitian community. His future plans include helping rebuild his fallen nation by taking the skills he learned at MDC, and going into politics in Haiti.

A month after arriving from her native Cuba, Liana Lantigua enrolled at MDC’s InterAmerican Campus. Unfamiliar with the customs and culture, Lantigua struggled with her studies. Her struggles proved to be worthwhile. She is currently Phi Theta Kappa’s vice president of fellowship and service, has volunteered as a math and chemistry tutor, and has participated in the Washington and Salzburg seminars. Enrolled in the rigorous MDC Honors College Dual Language Program, this sophomore plans to pursue a career in civil engineering. Both her parents are professors of mathematics and physics. Aside from her studies, Lantigua loves to dance, read, and sing. “I am planning on transferring to a four year university to continue my education as a civil engineer. I have no doubt that MDC has given me the tools to succeed and has turned me into a better scholar, professional, and individual,” she said.

Maria Moscoso’s undocumented immigration status and low income served as the impetus to champion equal rights. “I wasn’t always sure I would be able to even attend college no matter how high my grades and test scores were, but MDC gave me the hope and assistance I needed to garner the success I have found today,” she said. That success includes exercising her passion for both business and social justice by participating in Phi Beta Lambda, MDC’s business honor society, and SWER, Students Working for Equal Rights. This Kendall Campus student has applied to prestigious schools such as Smith College and Georgetown University, among others. A native of Ecuador, Moscoso plans to pursue a double major in Business Administration and Political Science, and then go on to law school. She hopes to one day open her own immigration law firm to help others like her.

Vanessa Fleites is a master at multi-tasking. This Kendall Campus student juggles her studies and 4.0 GPA with other activities such as Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Psychology Student Association, Psi Beta national honor society, volunteering at the Miami Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit, as well as tutoring. On the pre-med track and hoping to become a child psychiatrist working with kids with self-esteem issues, Fleites has applied to Stanford University, Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Boston University, among others. She believes MDC has paved the way for a brighter tomorrow. "My two years at Miami Dade College have truly opened many doors for my future and have prepared me for what is yet to come," said Fleites, who also conducted scientific research at the University of Miami through MDC’s Bridges Program. Her efforts in development biology brought her to a national conference in California where she presented her work. As a member of the Honors College, she also recently returned from the Salzburg Global Seminar in Austria, where she gained clarity about her aspirations in life and a boost of motivation to achieve her goals.

Carolina Assis’ biggest obstacle was self-doubt. She came to the U.S. with Multiple Sclerosis, in a wheelchair, and $60 in her pocket. Having been diagnosed with the debilitative illness in her native Brazil, Assis doubted she would be able to pursue a career in nursing. But, one day, she decided it was time to face her fears and break stereotypes. So she enrolled in Miami Dade College’s School of Nursing, at the Medical Campus. She says she chose nursing “because it's a way to give back to the community and help others to deal better with their condition and live life to the fullest.” Assis found time to volunteer at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, participate in the Heart Walk, Lupus Walk, and collect medical supplies bound for the Dominican Republic. She’s received numerous awards including the Koble Scholarship for outstanding disabled students and was chosen among the finalists in the March of Dimes student nurse recognition. “I want to be an advocate for my patients and an educator. I cannot think of any other career that would fulfill all my dreams as nursing would,” she said.

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants," This quote originally came from Sir. Isaac Newton. But Shawn Costello has adopted it, as his own. This Homestead Campus student dropped out of high school when he was 16, and today is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Majoring in chemistry, this part-time tutor hopes to continue his studies and earn a PhD in chemistry, and pursue a career in scientific research. “I grew up in a single-parent household so affording college was always an issue. I was seeking a college that was close to home, affordable, and with a good reputation and MDC fits those criteria,” he said. Despite the setbacks, Costello is the only one among his siblings to attend college, and the only one in his family to follow a career path in science. Among his top picks to pursue that chemistry degree is Johns Hopkins University.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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