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May 15, 2017
May 15, 2017, Jersey City, NJ – Hudson County Community College (HCCC) announced that Reyhan Lalaoui has been named the Class of 2017 Valedictorian. At age 16, she is the College’s youngest valedictorian ever. Ms. Lalaoui will deliver the valedictory speech at the College’s 40th Annual Commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 18, 2017. The ceremonies will take place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ, and will begin at 6 p.m. The keynote speaker that evening will be 2004 U.S. Presidential Candidate, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee and three-term Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. Joseph D. Sansone, the HCCC Vice President for Development and the Executive Director of the HCCC Foundation, will be presented with the HCCC 2017 Heritage Award that evening.
Although she is just 16 years old Reyhan – a Guttenberg resident – is remarkably poised, having journeyed through what she refers to as “an unusual academic life.” From the fifth through the twelfth grade, she was homeschooled by her mother, who utilized a Middle States-approved curriculum. In December 2014, Reyhan received her high school diploma, and in January 2015 – just a few days after her fourteenth birthday – she started classes at Hudson County Community College. She states that she chose to begin her college career at HCCC because she wanted to retain a sense of community and wanted to study someplace where she was “comfortable and near home.”
Of her college experience she says: “It was a wild ride, just like most people’s college years. At the beginning, I was anxious about constantly being the youngest person in the room. I soon learned, however, that you had little time for doubts when you have three midterm essays to write and a club to manage.”
In addition to her studies, Reyhan has enjoyed a full college experience at HCCC, serving as president of Sigma Kappa Delta (Honor Society) and a member of Phi Theta Kappa (Honor Society). She is also responsible for beginning a reading program for the students at P.S. #22 (Reverend Dr. Ercel F. Webb School) in Jersey City, and has been working on setting up a book drive as well. This past January, she was named a 2017 National Young Arts Foundation finalist in writing.
Although she is the first in her family to complete a college degree, she credits her family for inspiring and supporting her academic ambitions. “Seeing my family throw themselves into something and be successful, I knew I could, too,” she states.
Reyhan’s father is a native of Morocco who, speaking limited English, came to the U.S. in search of a better life. Her mom is a successful advertising writer who comes from “a long line of hard-working, blue-collar Americans.” The family has established a thriving business, The Soccer Learning Center in Jersey City, where Mr. Lalaoui is the head coach and Mrs. Lalaoui provides the business’s promotional work. “I am lucky to have family who supports me and shows me how to take the initiative and work hard to achieve my goals and build lasting relationships.”
Reyhan also credits her HCCC professors who wrote encouraging remarks on her papers, her classmates who shared their snacks with her, and everyone who “met me unexpectedly on this path and was endlessly kind to me” for helping her succeed in her college studies.
She shared that she is also thankful to her 11-year-old brother for putting up with his big sister during midterm week.
An English major, Reyhan plans to be a writer and filmmaker who creates material that will help young people tackle timely issues in city environments, and she will complete work towards her bachelor’s degree at New York University or Saint Peter’s University.
HCCC President Glen Gabert, Ph.D. said, “All of us at the College are extremely proud of Reyhan and what she has accomplished. She is a brilliant example of the determination and diligence of Hudson County Community College’s students, and we congratulate her and the entire Class of 2017 on their achievements.”