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Speakers Inspire Graduates While Praising MDC in May 2 Commencement Addresses

InterAmericanCampus 2009 Grads

2009 graduates from Miami Dade College's InterAmerican Campus.

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Miami, May 5, 2009 - More than 9,100 graduates from Miami Dade College’s (MDC) seven campuses walked across the stage at six graduation ceremonies on May 2. Six commencement speakers delivered parting words to them, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who received an honorary degree from the institution.

“When I think of the people who’ve been at this podium before me, I’m truly humbled. Indeed this is a great college and this is a great country. Looking out on this audience is like looking at the United Nations,” Secretary Solis said at the Wolfson Campus ceremony. “Today, you begin the first part of your lives. Take all that is inside of you and make it work for your community.”

MDC awarded 7,800 two-year associate degrees, more than any other institution in the country. MDC also awarded 205 four-year bachelor’s degrees – including the first graduates of the college’s bachelor’s in nursing program – and numerous college credit and career certificates. Sixty-four percent of the graduates were Hispanic, 23 percent black and 10 percent white non-Hispanic. Together, these graduates represented 106 countries and 45 languages.

Also delivering parting words to the graduating class were Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation and former Miami Herald publisher; David Lawrence Jr., president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and former Miami Herald publisher; Dan B. Kimball, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks; MDC District Board of Trustees Chair Helen Aguirre Ferré; and Dr. Bernd A. Wollschlaeger, Aventura physician and president of the Dade County Medical Association.

These speakers delivered sage advice to a graduating class that will pursue bachelor’s and advanced degrees at such institutions as Columbia, Georgetown, North Carolina, Howard, American and Stanford to name a few.

“This college has the great tradition of training and teaching the people who become a part of this community,” Ibargüen said in his address to the graduates of North and Hialeah campuses. “This is a day of hope about your future. I give you four simple guidelines - work hard, embrace change, do something you love, and act like you own your own life.”

Speaking at the InterAmerican Campus ceremony, Lawrence said: “I could write a story about any one of you, but will single out Roger Reyes, a son of immigrants who lost one of his parents, but maintained a 3.92 grade point average. He is only one among us with an extraordinary story.”

Lawrence opened his remarks by expressing his disappointment over the failure of the State House to give the Local Option Bill a hearing during the Legislative Session. Passing the measure would have given Miami-Dade voters an opportunity to vote for local support for MDC.
“We all need to work hard to secure the future of Miami Dade College,” Aguirre Ferré said at the Kendall Campus graduation. “This is a great institution with great students and faculty. I know you will all do amazing things.”

Kimball and Wollschlaeger stressed public service in their remarks to MDC’s graduates.

“The future of south Florida depends on the Everglades,” Kimball said. “The challenge is to help the Everglades. The suggestion is to consider a career in public service.  I highly recommend it.”

Wollschlaeger, an Aventura physician, added: “It’s time for the region’s health care community to work closer together. It’s time for change. We live in an area which has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in health care fraud, but you have the passion, dedication and education to change that.”

In the last two years alone, MDC graduation speakers have included President George W. Bush, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, among other prominent local and national leaders.

“Today is the beginning for our generation, so let us go and show the world the power we possess,” said graduate Ophelia Somers, president of the Wolfson Campus student government association.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.
Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Miami Dade College.
Miami Dade College is an equal access/equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, marital status, age, religion, national origin,
ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, veteran's status, sexual orientation, or genetic information.
Contact the Office of Director, Equal Opportunity Programs, ADA and Title IX Coordinator, at 305.237.2577 for assistance.