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Nearly 15,000 Miami Dade College Graduates Closer to Achieving Professional and Academic Dreams as they Celebrate Commencement May 3

Graduation Ceremony

Miami, April 29, 2014 - Miami Dade College (MDC) will celebrate the achievements of nearly 15,000 graduates who are one step closer to making their dreams a reality at five Commencement Ceremonies, Saturday, May 3.  

The students from MDC’s seven campuses and two major outreach centers represent 117 countries. They will choose a path as diverse as their upbringing, in finance, education, and architecture, among many other fields. Many will move on to major universities across the U.S. to complete upper division studies or graduate degrees.

Meet some of this spring’s extraordinary students:   

Hellen Rivas got her first taste of screen time at the age of two when she appeared on television. In 2010, Univision ranked her as a top teenage reporter of Miami-Dade County. So, it comes as no surprise that this high-achieving sophomore – part of MDC’s dual-enrollment program (taking high school and college classes together) – is graduating with an Associate in Art with a Pathway to Journalism, and a 3.94 GPA. When she’s not receiving proclamations from the White House for volunteerism or presiding as vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa Society at Hialeah Campus, this 18-year-old is recording albums. She hopes to obtain a doctorate in broadcast journalism and music. “Rather than feeling that my responsibilities are a heavy load, I feel they are essential to have and feel confident that I can handle them,” she said. “I am accustomed to having a busy lifestyle because that is how I was raised.”

Francy Perdomo and her husband raised Hellen Rivas not by buying her affection with material things, but gifting her with time and love. When May 3 comes around, mother and daughter will walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, while Hellen’s father, also an MDC student, will cheer them on. “Graduating with my daughter is an honor and a privilege,” Perdomo said. Perdomo began her MDC journey at 40 by enrolling in non-credit English classes at Hialeah Campus. As the term was coming to a close, she applied for the Associate in Art in psychology. It seems helping people is in her nature. The soon-to-be graduate with a 3.84 GPA owns a music academy and runs a non-profit she started with her family back in 2005 that spearheads humanitarian missions. The Pink H. Foundation has helped 3,500 needy children in her native Colombia.  

Wendy Ruizhas a personal and professional dedication to working for others. While at Homestead Campus, the 22-year-old daughter of Mexican immigrants served as a youth leader and board member of the We Count organization to address social justice and immigration issues. Her passion for immigration rights led her to spearhead a lawsuit to allow children of undocumented parents to pay in-state college tuition. Ruiz credits MDC with helping her grow academically and professionally. Graduating from the Pathways to Biology program with a GPA of 3.45, she has hopes to attend the Florida International University to study mathematics and eventually become a college professor. “My ultimate goal is to provide an education to future students, and inspire them to view their own possibilities for leadership and professional accomplishments as limitless as Miami Dade College has provided to me," she said.       

After completing combat tours to Kuwait and Iraq, Pedro Rivera devised a “battle plan” to excel in college and life. The military “trained me to be better planned – know your objective and how to achieve it,” said the eight-year military veteran who served in both the U.S. Army and Navy. Exemplifying discipline and hard work, Rivera has a GPA of 3.38 and is set to receive his Bachelor of Applied Science in supervision and management. Born and raised in New York, the 29-year-old chose MDC because it was affordable and offered his program of study. He credits his father for being a life-long mentor and says that his professors at Homestead Campus were his inspiration to dream big. “They motivated me to strive and never think what’s in the near future is all you can achieve,” he said. Rivera plans to pursue his master’s degree in supply chain management at Nova Southeastern University.

Andy Alfonso arrived from Cuba three years ago and in that time he has not only learned English, but has enthusiastically embraced all the opportunities he has encountered as an Honors College student at the InterAmerican Campus, where he maintains a perfect 4.0 GPA. In addition to excelling academically, the 20-year-old is devoted to helping others. He received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for tutoring his peers up to 22 hour per week in math, chemistry, physics and English. He served as president of the National Society of Leadership and Success and vice president of Leadership and Scholarships of MDC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. He also took part in the Harvard-MDC Latino Leadership Retreat and MDC’s Honors College Salzburg Seminar. He also found time to work on MDC fundraisers, including TECHO to build homes in impoverished areas of the world, Knit Into Love to help those with cancer and a walk to raise money for leukemia research. He has applied to Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and Yale universities. “I love giving back to the community,” said Andy. “I see myself becoming the youngest neurosurgeon/intracranial tumor researcher in the best hospital in a third-world country. It could be anywhere I’m needed, from the Congo or India to South Africa.”

Laura Ortiz remembers her years at Archbishop Carroll High School fondly. There was something Sister Lourdes said that changed her life: “To be a leader, one must be a servant.” Ortiz has lived according to this motto since then. Graduating with Honors from InterAmerican Campus, this international relations major has her eye on Georgetown University and ultimately working at the United Nations, defending women’s rights. Ortiz is no stranger to advocacy. She and a group of students brought TECHO to the IAC, a youth-led non-governmental organization (NGO) eradicating poverty in Latin America. The Colombian-born 20-year-old believes MDC has fostered a stronger commitment in her to continue civic engagement throughout the rest of her life.

Inspired by the engineers and economists in her family, Evelyn Iglesias, 20, plans to double major in architecture and economics, then eventually get a master’s degree in London in parametric architecture. She hopes to one day work in a great “architectural metropolis,” such New York City or Dubai. At MDC, Iglesias maintained a 4.0 GPA and earned the 2013-14 Outstanding Student of the Year Award in Architecture at MDC’s Kendall Campus. She is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and MDC’s Architecture Society. In addition, she is gaining valuable hands-on experience this spring working for Florida Tilt Inc., where she is responsible for accurately calculating the total costs associated with new construction projects.

Jordan Dieppa graduates with an Associate in Science in computer science from Kendall Campusand plans to attend the University of Central Florida. The 20-year-old would like to teach high-school students or work as an adviser with students who have disabilities. In spite of her own limitations, including being diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, Dieppa has excelled academically and continues helping others. She works as Auxiliary Aid and Note Taker at Kendall Campus’ ACCESS department and is a former teacher’s assistant at Miami Killian High School. She also wrote her first novel, My Name is Blaine. Dieppa is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Speech and Debate club, and has participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Great Strides Walk and Give Back Night. She also won the Youth Fair Volunteer Award and Fraternal Order of Police Scholarship.

Born in Colombia and raised in Venezuela, 36-year-old Medical Campus student Nury Cardenas was already a college graduate and seasoned business professional upon enrolling in MDC’s nursing program. Her first bachelor’s degree, which she earned in Venezuela, was in business administration. However, becoming a nurse, she says, is her way of giving back to society. While at MDC, Cardenas served as a campus ambassador and currently volunteers at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She graduated with an Associate of Science in Nursing in December with a GPA of 3.25 and is a recent recipient of the Mitchell Wolfson Senior Foundation Scholarship. She plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing at MDC.

Luis Diaz Cano, 40, genuinely enjoys helping others, which explains why he chose the nursing profession. He graduates with his Bachelor of Science in nursing from Medical Campus and a GPA of 3.76. The Dominican Republic native’s goal is to become a nurse practitioner and own his health practice. At MDC, Cano participated in several health fairs. Among his awards and accolades, he was a recipient of the Mitchell Wolfson Senior Foundation Scholarship and the Kendall Campus’ Student of the Year Award in 2010. He leaves MDC inspired by his professors, who he says, “have not only taught from the curriculum; they have shared their knowledge to support my learning and educational success.”

Sean McKenzie was born tone deaf, but that didn't stop him from becoming a musician. The 19-year-old plays the bass guitar at his church on the weekends, sells real estate, and is also a mechanic. Every morning, he wakes up at 2:45, does his daily devotions, and studies. If this wasn't enough to keep him busy, he’s also part of MDC’s Honor’s College at North Campus and is juggling ten classes. This fall, with his 3.92 GPA, McKenzie hopes to study economics at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and then work on Wall Street, becoming the CFO of a major financial institution. His journey hasn't been easy. As a child, he and his family faced many adversities, including numerous evictions and living in a church’s kitchen. His biggest fans, his parents, have so much faith in him they’ve bought him a new suitcase to take to U-Penn.

Huimin Ou arrived in the United States from China when she was 17 years old with only basic English under her belt. Although timid, she made lots of friends and began to settle into her new culture. Ou says she paid attention in her ESOL classes, read a lot, and memorized every word she didn't know. Her hard work paid off. She joined the math club, robotics club, and earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. This 21-year-old, who is fluent in Mandarin, Fujianese, and English, and hails from a “very conservative Chinese family,” will graduate with honors and an Associate in Arts in engineering from the North Campus. She hopes to become an industrial engineer.     

Prior to joining the paralegal studies program at Wolfson Campus, Adrian Gonzalez, 27, was an opera major at New World School of the Arts until a personal event changed his ambitions. When his partner came out to his parents, he was kicked out of the home and forced to move forward without their support. That experience made Adrian realize he had to help others in similar situations, and he switched his focus to law. He currently works as a paralegal and plants to continue his studies at Florida International University. Gonzalez’s goals include practicing law and hopefully returning to MDC to teach in the paralegal program. In addition to academics, he participated in MDC’s Society of Law and Paralegal Career Success Seminar. He has been recognized as Community Service Leader of Society of Law & Community Service, Most Outstanding Member of Society of Law & Community Service and Unsung Hero of Society of Law & Community Service.

Arlene McPhee has achieved a great balancing act. The 52-year-old graduates from Wolfson Campus with a bachelor’s degree in business and is on the Dean’s List, while also caring for her 80-year old mother (who went back to school at age 60) and making time for her five grandchildren. She plans to continue her studies at Barry University and would like to work consulting and teaching throughout the Caribbean. Born in Bahamas and raised in Miami, McPhee is a licensed massage therapist and works part-time at Miami Veterans Hospital. She is also a peer mentor and fitness instructor.  


Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino Florin, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Kai Hill, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Roxana Romero, 305-237-3366,, media specialist

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