Lorraine Singletary, this year’s Valedictorian, will address the BMCC graduating class of 2011 at the June 6th commencement.
“I went from high school dropout to college Valedictorian. It’s amazing. I still can’t believe it,” says Singletary, a Media Arts and Technology major who grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Singletary was raised primarily by her single mother, who struggled to support three children.
Despite roadblocks, Singletary’s mom stressed the importance of an education, especially to Singletary, a little girl who loved singing, movies and going to school.
Then something happened.
“I lost focus after my father passed away. I dropped out of high school my junior year and decided to get my GED,” she explains. “I was so emotionally destroyed back then. I was a mixed bag of emotions.”
Singletary then worked at a real estate agency in Manhattan, “never loving the job and always feeling like something was missing,” she recalls.
After her daughter Laylah was born, Singletary left the world of real estate and—encouraged by a friend who graduated from BMCC—decided to pursue a college degree.
Mom and daughter attend college
A crucial selling-point for Singletary was BMCC’s Early Childhood Center.
“That was it—there was no excuse for me now. I could bring my daughter to BMCC and she could be in college with me—I was sold, and enrolled,” says Singletary. “I couldn’t believe that BMCC had a center for children whose parents wanted to pursue their academic dreams.”
Singletary’s family strongly supported her decision to attend BMCC.
“I made so many mistakes in the past, but in 2009, I felt ready. My head was finally on straight, thanks to my little girl. My goal wasn’t to earn straight A’s, it was just to succeed.”
Singletary recalls how she felt when she first toured BMCC’s media arts studios.
"I felt at home, I thought, this is for me, it's exactly what I want to do."
She grew up watching hours of different movies, "way past my bedtime when everyone else was asleep."
“I’ve always been interested in filmmaking, especially the behind-the-scenes stuff,” says Singletary. “The first time I brought my video camera home, I played with it all night. I love walking around with my camera, imagining how certain buildings or angles will look on film. I'm always editing and directing in my head.”
Media Arts and Technology Professor Cynthia Karasek, a mentor and role model to Singletary, was impressed by Singletary’s ability to learn.
“She remembered every word I said in every lecture. Then I realized that she enhanced her natural abilities with excellent work habits and great discipline. She really dug into the material,” recalls Karasek. “She takes her work seriously, earns A's, and succeeds through quiet determination without showing off or drawing attention to herself.”
Singletary maintained a 4.0 during her time at BMCC, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
“I was never focused on perfection—just graduating. I just did what I had to do, even if it meant starting my homework after my daughter fell asleep,” says Singletary.
The good news
When Karasek told her she was “in the running” for the title of class Valedictorian, Singletary recalls that she couldn't help crying a little bit. Happy tears, of course.
“And when Erwin Wong, Dean of Academic Affairs, said to me, ‘You got it, you’re Valedictorian,’ I wanted to scream. I was so excited, but also shocked,” recalls Singletary, who currently interns for a documentary filmmaker.
Taking it to the next level, she hopes to direct and write feature films, and is considering enrollment at a few colleges in the fall, including Brooklyn College.
But she’ll always remember her days at BMCC.
“BMCC taught me all the technical skills I need to work in production. The Media Arts professors always reminded me that I have my own style and voice. Just because I’m not a film student at NYU or School of Visual Arts or Pace doesn’t mean I’m not as talented as those students,” she says. “My BMCC professors encouraged me to bring my artistic visions to the next level.”
Karasek says Singletary has the talent and drive to do well in the highly competitive media industry.
“Her intelligence, easygoing personality, and her ability to deliver a good product, will be noticed and rewarded.”
Speech to students
Singletary looks forward to addressing her mentors and peers on graduation day.
“I’m going to talk about risks—how you shouldn’t ever be afraid to take them and listen to your heart,” she says.
Grateful for the support of her mother, daughter, siblings and friends, there is another special person Singletary will think about when she accepts her diploma.
“I know my father would be incredibly proud of me, and how far I have come."