Congratulations to the QCC Class of 2024 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Published: May 23, 2024

“Back to the Future” for this Soon-to-be-Graduate

Queensborough Valedictorian Melanie Jerez

Melanie Jerez
Valedictorian, Class of 2024

“Sometimes you need to deviate from your path to reach your destination,” said 32-year-old Melanie Jerez, who will graduate with an associate in science (A.S.) degree (3.96 G.P.A.) in Psychology at Queensborough Community College’s 63 rd Commencement Ceremony to be held on Friday, May 31.

As far as her destination is concerned, becoming Valedictorian of her Class is a dream she doesn’t have to wake from.

“The dreams I have held close to my heart for so long have come to fruition. My hard work, my sacrifices, the risks I have taken to challenge myself and not be afraid of failure have brought me to this place. I am so honored to represent Queensborough on the culmination of my extraordinary journey at the College and share my farewell with my great fellow graduates of 2024.”

Melanie, who enrolled at Queensborough in the fall of 2022, grew up in the Dominican Republic.

Although she is the first in her family to graduate from college, it is her family who instilled some of the most important values in her life such as dedication, perseverance, and empathy. As a teenager, Melanie lived with her loving grandmother, who also nurtured her great grandmother in the last years of her life. During this time, Melanie took on the responsibility of caring for her younger brother when he needed her most.

It is family that inspired her decision to follow in the footsteps of that kindness and warmth and pursue a career in caregiving.

In 2007 Tropical Storm Olga ravaged the island. “We lost everything.”

Melanie stayed with her family in the Dominican Republic while the healing and rebuilding was underway. During that time, she completed her studies in Nursing at a vocational school, giving her the opportunity to intern as a Nurse in several major public hospitals in the Dominican Republic. In addition to nursing, Melanie worked as an English teacher at the JFK Institute of Languages and the Universidad Dominicana O&M, opening doors of opportunity for her to work as a teacher assistant at Colegio Bilingüe New Horizons, O&M Hostos School, and others. In 2017, after she arrived in the U.S. she interned as a medical assistant at NYU Langone ambulatory care in Manhattan while also pursuing EMS training with Aura Prep at Fordham University to become a Certified EMT and continue her pathway in health care.

Melanie applied her teaching skills at Queensborough where she worked from 2022-24 as a math tutor and college assistant in CUNYStart. “I helped students to gain confidence with their quantitative skills and grasp a better understanding of the curriculum by providing guidance, and other support.”

Soon Melanie will offer encouragement and advice to a much bigger crowd. “Queensborough has encouraged me to be brave. I asked for help and received mental health support during COVID. I saw myself in other students-- work and family responsibilities, feeling lost sometimes. But I also saw and experienced joy, excitement, and friendship. I found true comfort here, a community nestled in a culture of care.”

Every Setback Became a Springboard for Growth

Queensborough Salutatorian Michael Delva

Michael Delva
Salutatorian, Class of 2024

Michael Delva, born and raised in St. Albans, Queens, says it seems incredible that he once pursued college without conviction.

Now he is on the cusp of earning his A.A.S. (associate in applied sciences) degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at Queensborough and will continue his education in the fall of 2024 at The City College of New York where he will major in mechanical engineering with a minor in biology. His bright academic career at Queensborough is capped with Salutatorian's honor as the student with the second highest academic achievement in his graduating Class.

“There was a time when I could not see a connection between a prosperous future and having a degree.”

Mechanical engineering is what started to forge that connection. Michael had an aptitude for the study of machine systems and was attracted to the broad field of career choices of technology, design, and manufacturing. Another related connection was discovered in his English course where Michael discovered an interest in science.

“I read many articles, short stories, and research papers with a throughline on different forms of physical disabilities. This topic sparked my curiosity and I wondered how my aptitude for mechanical engineering could blend with medicine and form a career in prosthetics and orthotics.”

His rigorous studies did not prevent him from being steeped in clubs and activities. He joined ASAP in his second semester where he took advantage of the myriad services offered and learned skills to take him beyond the classroom to explore career paths. He was inducted into the PTK (Phi Theta Kappa) in the fall of 2023, and in fall 2023 he served on the SGA (Student Government Association) Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee.

And while he will be up in Harlem starting this fall, he will stay in Queens where his family lives including his mother, an immigrant from Haiti who has been Michael’s champion throughout his life.

“At Queensborough I had two wonderful years full of opportunities where every setback became a springboard for growth. Here I developed into a person who understands the importance of knowledge, compassion and self-discipline, qualities that will guide me as I begin the next chapter of my journey.”


Campus Cultural Centers

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