MEOC Celebrates More Than 400 Graduates in Livestream Commencement

June 17, 2021

More than 400 graduates from the SUNY Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC) were celebrated during a live-streamed 2021 Commencement Ceremony on June 17.

In addition, 66 of the 400 graduates were recognized with Certificates of Academic Achievement for their scholastic excellence.

Programs the graduates completed range from college prep to workforce development.

They include Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking, College Prep, Certified Microsoft Administrative Assistant, Certified Microsoft Office, Developmental Study Skills, Electronic Health Records, Certified EKG Technician, English for Speakers of Other Languages, Hospitality, High School Equivalency, Literacy Development, Numeracy, Certified Phlebotomy Technician, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Security Officer Training.

Anthony Watson, MEOC Dean and Executive Director, welcomed the Commencement audience with opening remarks.

“On behalf of the faculty and staff of MEOC, we congratulate and salute you for your achievements,” said Executive Director Watson. “This is a huge accomplishment. Some of you might have thought that you would not be here a year ago today. People on the outside might not know what you dealt with or had to sacrifice, to make education your priority.”

MOEC rose to the challenge of distance learning, he said. “Never let yourself be defeated. You have moved toward your destiny,” he told the graduates, and pointed out that this class includes those who completed two new programs at MEOC — Certified EKG Technician and Certified Microsoft Administrative Assistant, in addition to the first full cohort of Hospitality.

Lisa McKay, Associate Provost and Director of SUNY University Center for Academic and Workforce Development (UCAWD) congratulated the graduates on the tremendous accomplishment of completing their MEOC program.

“All across New York state, EOCs like Manhattan empower upward mobility by removing barriers to education and truly creating access to opportunity,” said Associate Provost McKay. “This represents a crossroads, a time to reflect on the journey to achievement, the courage that it took to make that first outreach to MEOC, the persistence that it took to complete your program, and perhaps, most importantly, the people who helped you every step of the way — and you did it all, while navigating the trials and tribulations of a global pandemic.”

Looking beyond commencement, Associate Provost McKay added that, “The Manhattan EOC will always be here for you, long after today’s ceremony. From college preparation, to job placement to a listening ear in your home away from home … we truly want to move forward with you, to celebrate even greater accomplishments to come.”

BMCC President Anthony E. Munroe told the graduates, “This accomplishment marks a major milestone along your educational path, a path that you have carved out for yourselves by studying hard, completing assignments and passing exams — all during a global pandemic.”

The future looks bright, President Munroe said, “and the level of optimism continues to increase in our city and our country. I commend you for not giving up on education, and more importantly, for not giving up on yourselves. You have gone to school while working one, maybe two or more jobs, taking care of loved ones … You did it. You persevered, and your perseverance has paid off. Celebrate your achievements!”

New York State Senator Brian Benjamin told the MEOC Class of 2021, “I am beyond excited to say that you have done it. This has been a tremendously difficult year. We’re now starting to get on the other side of COVID-19 and you’re graduating at a time when there are going to be so many decisions made for our economy. Just know that you have all the skills you need to make New York and any other state happy that you are in the workforce. Take that seriously, be passionate about what you do, find something that you want to do, and make it happen.”

Ginny Baro, CEO and founder of Executive Bound told the graduates, “I am so proud that you have devoted this time to take yourself to the next level, and to give yourself opportunities as you continue on your journey toward the next goal that you’re going to achieve as you reach your full potential.”

Noreen Jackson, who earned her HSE at MEOC, was the 2021 Valedictorian and Aleksei Alekseev, a graduate of MEOC’s Hospitality program was salutatorian.

Ms. Jackson quoted Maya Angelou in her address: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated,” and talked about her own journey with MEOC starting in Summer 2020, when she planned to enter the certified nurses’ training program, only to learn that she must first earn her high school equivalency, or HSE.

“Having not been in school for quite some time, tossed into new and unfamiliar territory, I considered quitting,” says Ms. Jackson, “but I completed my classes.”

She again quoted Maya Angelou: “’Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without virtue, you can’t practice any other virtue’ … we persevered in spite of intense challenges. To all my classmates, let us all go on to the next chapter of our journey, and continue to plan. Success will not wait. This is the time, this is the place, and we are the people. Let us act now.”

In addition to celebrating the graduates, Staff Service Awards were presented to MEOC employees for their years of service to the center.

These included Carmen Waldron (35 years), Karen Berry (25 years), Angela Gore (20 years), Brenda Jones (20 years), Leroy Jemison (15 years), Tanya Myers (15 years), Lawrence Williams (15 years) and Carmel Urbaez (10 years).

Located in East Harlem, MEOC delivers student-centered academic and workforce development programs and serves as a gateway to further education, career achievement, personal growth and self-sufficiency for adult learners in the New York City area. Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) administers the program.

Individuals interested in registering at MEOC can visit the website.


  • More than 400 graduates from the SUNY Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (MEOC) were celebrated during a live-streamed 2021 Commencement Ceremony on June 17
  • Programs the graduates completed range from basic skills to college prep to workforce development
  • Speakers included Valedictorian Noreen Jackson, MEOC Executive Director Anthony Watson, BMCC President Anthony Munroe, SUNY Associate Provost Lisa McKay, NYS Senator Brian Benjamin and CEO of Executive Bound, Ginny Baro

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