This Year RCC Will Hold Virtual Commencement

RAMAPO – Following the recommendations from health officials to maintain social distancing due to COVID-19, Rockland Community College has made the decision to hold a Virtual Commencement at 2 pm on June 11, 2020 in place of the May ceremony. It will be broadcast online and will recognize the names of all degree-seeking, certificate and Career Skills Academy graduates. It will also include graduate profiles, presidential remarks, keynote addresses, and student speakers.

“While we won’t be able to meet in person this year, I am delighted to invite our graduates and their families and friends along with RCC faculty and staff to share in this joyous ‘virtual’ celebration as these students embark on the next chapters in their lives, whether it is entering the workforce immediately or continuing on to a four-year college,” says RCC President Michael Anthony Baston. “In the fall, all graduating students will be invited to an in-person alumni reception for the Class of 2020 to celebrate their academic achievement with the College community. We believe it is significant to have graduates walk across the stage and be recognized for their accomplishments, so all 2020 graduates are invited to participate in the 2021 Commencement.”

Students will receive an email earlier in the day of graduation with a link to the live stream and the RCC Commencement website. During the live stream, students can comment, in real-time, about the event. Afterward, students can share the video and the Commencement site with friends and family. A copy of the program will be mailed to each graduate. For more information about Commencement, visit

Sarita Brown
Sarita Brown

This year’s keynote speakers are:
Sarita Brown
Sarita E. Brown is founding President of Excelencia in Education, a national non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating Latinx success in higher education by linking research, policy, and practice to serve Latinx students. For more than three decades, she has worked at prominent educational institutions and at the highest levels of government, to implement effective strategies, raise academic achievement, and increase opportunity for low-income and students of color.

Dr. Mill Etienne
Dr. Mill Etienne is Associate Dean for Student Affairs at New York Medical College (NYMC) and he is a Commander in the United States Navy. He is also Associate Professor of Neurology and Medicine and serves as Course Director of Multiculturalism in Medicine at the NYMC School of Medicine. Dr. Etienne is a visiting scholar at the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University, and he is Director of the Epilepsy and EEG Laboratory at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, part of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network. He is currently serving as the Vice President and President-Elect of the New York State Neurological Society.

Special Commendations

Dora Maher: Student Speaker
Dora Maher was born at West Point Military Academy, West Point and grew up in the Hamlet Section of Fort Montgomery. She began her journey at Rockland Community College in 1993 and then returned in 2017 and has been on the Dean’s list for all four semesters. She is a member of Alpha Beta Gamma, the Business honor society at RCC, holding the positions of secretary in the fall of 2019 and vice president in the spring of 2020. Maher interned with TRiO and served as a peer mentor for Student Success. She was accepted to SUNY Cobleskill and plans to major in Business Administration, and then continue on to earn an MBA degree. In the future, Maher would like to work in the corporate or non-profit sector to help underrepresented students learn about higher education and business opportunities.

Alanna Wamsley: SUNY Excellence Award Winner
“RCC has prepared me to be real-world ready by giving me the opportunity to stand on my own two feet,” says Alanna Wamsley from Nanuet. She graduates with an A.A. in Humanities & Social Science Honors and Performing Arts: Musical Theatre. She worked on campus as a tutor in the Reading and Writing Center, was President of the Campus Players Club, as well as an active member in Performing Arts productions. Wamsley pursued an apprenticeship with John Nichter, the Technical Manager at the Cultural Arts Center Theatre, which will continue after graduation.

Austin Miller: SUNY Excellence Award Winner
“At RCC, all of my professors had knowledge from actual experience, which will pay off exponentially in the real world,” says Austin Miller, a first-generation college student from Millerton. Miller was on Active Duty in the U.S. Navy for six years as a Military Police Officer stationed at the Marine Corps. Security Force Battalion in Washington State, and Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida before enrolling at RCC. He graduates with an A.S. in Criminal Justice with Honors designation and will continue his education in Criminal Justice at Marist College. Miller served as President of the Veteran’s Club, a member of the President’s Society, and as a Peer Mentor. He has also interned for Senator David Carlucci and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office.

Matheus Melo: SUNY Excellence Award Winner; Student Activity Board Chair
“The programs and clubs at RCC gave me the connections and motivation to pursue my education, and the discipline to achieve my goals,” says Matheus Melo, who graduates with an A.A.S. in Business Administration with an Honors designation. An international student from Brazil, he was the Chairperson of the Student Activities Board, Founder and President of the DJ and Music Production Club, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. In addition to his extracurricular activities, Melo worked in the Strategic Marketing Office as a member of the Street Team and as a student worker in the Admissions Office. He will be transferring to Florida International University to earn his Bachelor’s Degree and plans to pursue a Master’s Degree.

Thomas Leonard: SUNY Excellence Award Winner; Student Representative for the Board of Trustees
“In just two years, I went from the kid who scraped by in high school to achieve the highest honor for a SUNY Student. Studying at RCC has been the best decision I ever made and has left me ready to impact my community for years to come,” says Thomas Leonard, a resident of Stony Point. He graduates with an A.S. in Liberal Arts and Science – Mathematics and Science, with an Honors designation. Leonard served as the Student Representative to the Board of Trustees, the President of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, Treasurer of Beta Beta Beta, President of the Chemistry Club and member of the President’s Society. He plans to continue his education at Georgetown University with a major in Political Science.

Mohammed Fraxen Ait Belkacem: Student Government Association President
“I decided to come to New York and RCC to have a better future and my experiences here made me realize that I want to make a difference,” says Mohammed Fraxen Ait Belkacem, an international student from Algeria who identifies as Berber. In April 2017, he began his education in America and is now graduating with an A.S. in Liberal Arts: Science-Humanities and Social Sciences, with an Honors designation. He was elected and served as SGA President, and served on several campus committees including the RCC Association Board, the President’s Cabinet, President’s Society, Volunteer Services Program and as Vice President of Alpha Phi Sigma. He worked in Strategic Marketing as a member of the Street Team and as a tutor in the Tutoring Center. He plans to continue his education and earn a Bachelor’s Degree from a four-year university.

Rockland Community College, State University of New York, offers a safe, supportive learning environment for thousands of students from diverse backgrounds who appreciate small class sizes and personal attention from a distinguished, award-winning faculty that includes Fulbright scholars and SUNY Distinguished Professors. Thanks to the school’s affordable tuition, students who start out at RCC and then transfer to a four-year college can save up to $100,000 on their education. RCC is also proud to provide career training and professional development to adult learners looking to change careers or upgrade their skills. More information can be found at

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