NOVA’s 54th Commencement Offers Praise for Graduates from Leaders Across the Commonwealth

May 10, 2021

Northern Virginia Community College’s 54th Annual Commencement was celebrated virtually on May 5th, May 6th and May 7th. This interactive virtual celebration honored students with the theme, Believe! Aspire! Achieve!

Opening with congratulatory vignettes from faculty and staff, this moving ceremony reminded students how important they remained to the faculty and staff through this past year, even while most courses were accomplished remotely. Dr. Donna Minnich, college Marshall and college Senate chair then officially announced the virtual celebration kick off for the 2020 and 2021 NOVA graduates.

Rosie O’Neil, college board chair offered remarks in both Spanish and English, greeting family and friends in a warm welcome that recognized the academic achievement and undeniable perseverance of NOVA’s graduates.  As a reminder of the scale of impact, O’Neil shared some NOVA pride points: “NOVA is the 14th largest college or university in the nation and the largest public university in Virginia; nearly 20% of every graduating high school class in Northern Virginia start their college career at NOVA; each year, an estimated 12,000 high school students begin taking classes at NOVA, and, lastly, that NOVA is the largest supplier of trained talent for the region’s employers.”

NOVA is so proud of our graduates as they sat through “zoom after zoom in Canvas classes and virtual labs, on laptops in quiet corners and even on their phones in their cars, while serving as their own children’s remote teacher or as an essential worker – they have pushed through the pandemic and shown the grit that becomes greatness.”

“Your success in the face of unexpected and unprecedented challenges is a testimony to your unwavering commitment to your goals, your staggering brilliance and boldness,” said Dr. Anne M. Kress, president of NOVA. “I am so proud of you; we are all proud of you. You should be proud of you.”

Dr. Teba Al-Jumaili, who started her educational pursuits at NOVA and now serves as an associate dean of math, sciences, technology and business on NOVA’s Alexandria Campus, offered sentiments on her journey reflective of many of the diverse students at NOVA. “My advice to you is stay with NOVA, said Al-Jumaili. “NOVA is the place with a lot of opportunity”.

The commencement also came with words of encouragement from state and national leaders who recognized the tireless work that NOVA graduates put into their education. Those honorary speakers included: U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman, U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly, U.S. Congressman Don Beyer, U.S. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

I am excited to be with you here today and to congratulate all the graduates from NOVA, said Atif Qarni, secretary of education for Virginia. “I know it’s been a tough year with the pandemic, and I appreciate everyone’s resiliency. I know this is an exciting time for you in looking forward to your next phase.”

“Whether you are graduating in 2020 or 2021, this has been an extraordinary year—the pandemic, the election and the challenges around racial reconciliation,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner. “I hope this has taught you that you can overcome anything. I know you’ve shown resilience and the ability to persevere. So, to this graduating class, I say congratulations! I know brighter days are ahead for our country”

“I hope you’re all able to recognize the great accomplishment of what you’ve achieved and express gratitude to the teachers, family, friends – all those who’ve helped you get here,” said U.S. Senator, Tim Kaine. “It’s an honor to celebrate with you all today. I wish you all the best moving forward.”

“Congratulations on your graduation from NOVA,” said Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01). “I think the path ahead for you is going to be incredibly successful. I know how you’ve been prepared is going to chart that path. And this is the next step in your journey in life. You will take from what you’ve learned at NOVA and you will make a difference in your community, the Commonwealth and the nation.”

“Reaching this extraordinary accomplishment during this very challenging period shouldn’t be overlooked, you should feel proud of your accomplishments,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (VA-11).

“I just wanted to offer you my sincerest and most delighted congratulations on your graduation from NOVA, said Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08).” You can be proud that this has to be the best community college in the country, and part of the best community college system here in the U.S.”

“I am so proud of the NOVA classes of 2020 and 2021 for all of your hard work and perseverance in earning your degrees,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (VA-10). “What you’ve done is truly remarkable, especially with the many obstacles this past year has put in your way. No matter how your life’s journey brought you here – whether you’re the first in your family to go to college, new to this country seeking opportunity or making the leap to switch career paths and learn new skills – this is a pivotal moment for you.”

The event closed with Kelly Persons, executive director of the NOVA Educational Foundation, who announced six scholarship winners over the three days of commencement. The scholarships, funded by the Foundation, can be used for transfer to a four-year institution or for completing a career studies certificate program.

Topics: press release