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BMCC Names Two Valedictorians for 50th Commencement

May 5, 2015

NEW YORK, NY: May 7, 2015 ­— Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) selected two valedictorians for the college’s 2015 commencement ceremonies set for May 29 at The Theatre in Madison Square Garden.

Childhood Education major Eddy Rodriguez will speak during the morning at 11:00 a.m. and Liberal Arts major John Portelli is scheduled to speak during the afternoon ceremony that begins at 3:30 p.m. Both Rodriguez and Portelli maintained 4.0 Grade Point Averages and are members of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Rodriguez, a graduate of East New York Transit and Technical High School in Brooklyn, and Portelli, a graduate of Sir M.A. Refalo Secondary School in Malta, say they will speak about their academic journeys at BMCC.

“No matter where we go or what career path we all take in the future, the two or three years we students spent here at BMCC has left a huge impression,” said Portelli, who plans to transfer to Hunter College/CUNY next year.

Portelli was born and spent his early childhood in New York. But at age 14, his father moved the family to Malta. Not long after his high school graduation, Portelli convinced his parents that it was time to move back to Manhattan.

“Where I lived in Malta, everyone was Maltese, so the ideas and opinions weren’t so diverse, and a lack of diversity can create an atmosphere of intolerance,” Portelli said.

Portelli said he was grateful for services such as the Learning Resource Center, the Writing Center and the guidance he received through programs such as ASAP.

Portelli met a number of students who were unable to complete their college education during their first attempt or who never considered attempting college at all. But, he said BMCC provided many of those students an opportunity or in some cases, a second chance.

Rodriguez plans to speak about how BMCC provided him an outlet to express himself.

“Growing up in a conservative, Pentecostal home, I never really had the chance to reach out beyond the circles I grew up around,” Rodriguez said.

After graduating high school in 2009, Rodriguez jumped right into the New York City workforce. Then in 2012, after his grandmother died, he began to ponder his long-term future. Rodriguez later decided he wanted to pursue a career as a middle school teacher in an inner city neighborhood.

“By far, my biggest influence while at BMCC was Teacher Education Professor Cara Kronen,” he said.

Rodriguez said her class, Urban Schools in a Diverse American Society, was his best classroom experience at BMCC.

“As a conservative, at first I was scared to opine in the classroom,” he said, worried that classmates or the professor might judge his opinions.

But Professor Kronen created a classroom environment where open and respectful discourse was encouraged, he said. Discussions were often lively, and yes, viewpoints differed, but he says Kronen instilled a level of mutual respect among her students, he said.

“In the end, we all had the same goal, how we could be better teachers and impact positive change for the educational experiences for kids in the inner city,” said Rodriguez, who is still considering his options of four-year schools.

About BMCC:

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) and enrolls over 25,000 degree-seeking and 11,000 continuing education students a year, awarding associate degrees in 33 fields. BMCC ranks #4 among community colleges nationwide in granting associate degrees to minority students, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. Visit:

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  • Rodriguez is a graduate of East New York Transit and Technical High School
  • Portelli is a graduate of Sir M.A. Refalo Secondary School in Malta
  • Both students grateful for opportunities at BMCC

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