Hudson County Community College Class of 2024 Graduates Illustrate Powerful, Transformative Journeys

May 21, 2024

May 21, 2024, Jersey City, NJ –  The Hudson County Community College (HCCC) Class of 2024 is comprised of many students who overcame adversity to earn their associate degrees, including homelessness, language barriers, and more. They take pride in the College and HCCC’s “Hudson is Home” motto. The graduates include career changers, first-generation immigrants, single parents, returning students, and others.  

The College held its 47th Annual Commencement Ceremonies on Thursday, May 16 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The festivities included Greetings and Introductions from HCCC President Dr. Christopher Reber and Hudson County Executive Craig Guy. 

“It was a remarkable year here at HCCC! We came together in times of joy and adversity, worked hard, supported and encouraged one another, and achieved our dreams,” said Dr. Reber.


HCCC Class of 2024

Hudson County Community College graduated 1,532 students – the College’s largest graduating class to date – on May 16, 2024.

These are a few of the HCCC graduates’ stories:

After his hospitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic, Manhattan hairstylist Percy Aguirre, 52, traded his shears for a degree in Applied Science-Medical Assisting. He is graduating Cum Laude. “Instead of making clients look good on the outside, I will now help patients feel better from the inside,” Percy said. 

Tyshara Bonaparte, 41, dropped out of HCCC in 2005-2006 to raise two children. “I waited until my children became adults and returned to school to earn my degree in Medical Sciences. I have overcome all the obstacles that prevented me from accomplishing my goals and am now graduating with honors at the top of my class,” Tyshara said. “We really can do what we put our minds to. Thank you, HCCC for bringing out the best in me.”

Graduating Summa Cum Laude, Noelle Breslin transitioned to HCCC from a university where she had struggled academically. At HCCC, she worked her way to the Dean’s List and a degree in Early Childhood Education, served as a member of the Tri-Alpha First-Generation Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Noelle inspired her mom to enroll at the College, too. “HCCC became a second home for me, offering unwavering support, invaluable guidance, and extensive assistance,” Noelle said. “HCCC changed the way I look at community college, and my life has undergone a profound transformation thanks to this remarkable educational experience.” 

Graduating Summa Cum Laude, David Galarza Castro received his degree in Biology and is pursuing a  bachelor’s degree at Princeton University. He is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and served as President of the HCCC Dreamers Club. 

Madeline Dyer grew up in Belize and worked in a law office before emigrating to the United States. The mother of an autistic child with multiple allergies, Madeline immersed herself in understanding the developmental disorder, and has now earned her Associate’s degree in Medical Sciences. “Attending HCCC became a turning point in my life. Through this academic journey, I found my voice, reason, and purpose,” she said. 

Brianna Morales, who graduated Magna Cum Laude, came to HCCC because she wanted to attend the same school as her mother. She completed her degree in Culinary Arts - Baking and Pastry. “The program was an awesome opportunity and I got to learn amazing things from the best instructors. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me,” she said.

Vanessa Osorio is the mother of three who worked full time while navigating her college experience. She graduated with her degree in Medical Science. “There are times I felt I could not continue with the duties of work, school, and motherhood, but my kids kept me going through the late nights I spent doing homework,” Vanessa said. She was inducted into The National Society of Leadership and Success, one of her proudest moments. 

Ninive Portugal grew up in Peru, emigrated to the United States, and fulfilled her dream of attaining a Liberal Arts degree. In her first year at HCCC, she was nominated for The National Society of Leadership and Success and took several honors classes. “The motivational feedback from my teachers made this academic adventure more rewarding,” she said. “I took from HCCC the foundations for the next step in my life. I’m thankful to all the teachers who helped me improve and for the tutoring that was fundamental in my progress.” Her favorite quote is from Ronald Reagan: “The United States is too big for small dreams.”

Brandon Reedy completed his Criminal Justice degree and will continue his education at Seton Hall University. “In spite of suffering a disability as the result of untreated carbon monoxide poisoning, hours of physical therapy, several absences, having to walk with a cane at age 22, and struggling with mental health and self-image as a result, I am the first in my family to complete a college degree,” Brandon said.

While it was nearly 22 years in the making, Guillermo Rivero, 55, completed his degree in Business Administration. “I took my placement tests and first classes in 2002 as a not-long-arrived immigrant,” Guillermo said. “I never gave up on the chance to finish my Associate’s degree. I appreciate all that HCCC has done for me.”

Ashley Rosario was a teen mom and high school dropout before becoming the first woman in her family to attain a college degree. “I worked full time while being a full-time student and mom. I decided to attend HCCC years before, but I was pregnant during my senior year in high school, so I prioritized my responsibilities as a mother,” Ashley said.

Crystal Rosario endured a decade of personal struggles to attain her degree in Criminal Justice. “Despite the absence of familial support, I refused to succumb to the challenges that lay before me. Each obstacle became an opportunity for growth, each setback a lesson in resilience,” she said.   

Coraima Santos and her sister are the first in their family to earn college degrees. Both women put their education on hold to raise children. “This milestone is so important for our kids. We became mothers at a very young age,” Coraima, who completed her degree in Medical Science, said. “We accomplished a big step in our lives and set a good example for our children who are becoming teenagers. We are grateful for the opportunity to reach our goals.”

Graduating Cum Laude, Dorothea Thompson, 56, completed her degree in Medical Science. Her son Bryan Bess is graduating with a degree in Computer Science. “We made it. You only fail if you stop trying. My journey was long and challenging, but through God’s grace, I made it,” Dorothea said. 

Living in her vehicle when she enrolled at HCCC, Natasha Thompson was laser-focused on changing her life with a degree in Medical Science. “There were so many times I wanted to give up and quit; thought I wasn’t good enough. During my spring semester, I became ill. Between the hospital and rehab, I was out of commission for over two months,” Natasha said. She got a job and spent a lot of time in the Gabert Library which provided a comfortable, safe space to study and complete assignments. When her vehicle broke down, she slept on benches in the Student Lounge and in her employer’s cafeteria. “With everything that was designed to make me quit or fail, I never gave up. My desire to achieve more and to help others kept me going.”