From L to R, Edward Patterson, NYPD Officer and graduate of the CASAC Program; Suzanne Toma, Director of Workforce Development and Professional Programs; Kevin Geoghegan NYPD Officer and graduate of the CASAC Program; Jasmine Cardona; Michael Squeglia, Coordinator of the CASAC Program; and Kenichi Iwama

The College of Staten Island’s Workforce Development division held its second annual graduation ceremony at CSI’s Center for the Arts yesterday, celebrating the accomplishments of students enrolled in its certificate and specialized training programs.

More than 150 guests, family, and friends attended the ceremony to share in the success of Workforce Development program graduates. Representing the College of Staten Island was Vice President of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations, Ken Iwama, Esq. and Jasmine Cardona, Executive Director of Economic Development, Continuing Studies and Government Relations.

In his welcoming remarks, Iwama emphasized how CUNY’s adult and continuing education students, a very special population at CUNY nearly 250,000 strong, have a unique professional calling. He noted that with the stellar training students receive at their home institutions, continuing education students inevitably make vital contributions to their respective fields. Iwama further described how CSI’s Workforce and Continuing Education division, in particular, has become a leading provider of specialized training and job placement on Staten Island. Every year, CSI’s Workforce Development program graduates dozens of professionals in the healthcare, education, social service, and technology fields. Staten Island employers quickly learn that these students possess the specialized knowledge and skill sets that are in high demand in the local and regional job market.

Cardona also highlighted the College’s ongoing partnerships with leading nonprofits in the Borough working toward the employment of Staten Island residents in competitive training programs. These leading advocacy organizations include Staten Island Performing Provider System, YouthWins, the SI Chamber of Commerce, and the 1199SEIU Union.

Following introductions, Ebony O’Neal, a stage-IV Cancer survivor and graduate of the program who recently completed Workforce’s Medical Billing and Coding program, addressed her peers, describing the particularly close-knit community fostered by Workforce faculty and students: “During my time in the program, I had instructors who cared for me and taught me what I needed to know to be prepared for the field. I developed strong relationships with my fellow classmates. I loved the fact that I started and ended the program with the same students because we became a family during our journey.”

CSI’s Workforce Development program was particularly honored to have as keynote speaker of this year’s graduation ceremony Brigid Lang, Executive Director of the Grace Institute. Co-founded by two-time Mayor of New York City William Grace and philanthropist Grace Dodge, the Grace Institute shares Workforce’s mission — Grace Institute has provided tuition-free job training and job placement assistance for women re-entering the workplace in New York City for more than a century. Lang described the years leading to her appointment as Executive Director of the Grace Institute and most notably, her own pursuit of higher education as a working mother of two children. She described how an opportunity to volunteer on the board of a local nonprofit taught her the importance of identifying your strengths and consciously choosing to pursue excellence. “Lifelong learning teaches you to develop your own set of values over time — these values ultimately empower you on your quest to distinguish yourself in your career or chosen path,”  Lang extolled.

The Ceremony closed with the conferral of an award on CSI’s Workforce Development division by POPPA, the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance. Two graduates of Workforce’s CASAC program, Kevin Geoghegan and Edward Patterson, presented the award to Jasmine Cardona in recognition of CSI’s work with POPPA in support of police officers battling addiction.

After the ceremony, elated students and beaming family members enjoyed a catered reception and photo opportunities with Danny the Dolphin, CSI’s mascot. CSI’s Workforce faculty also bid farewell to students with tearful and joyous sentiments. As these newly minted professionals and graduates of CSI  set their sights on beginning their new jobs, Workforce Development faculty and ftaff prepare for the start of Fall 2018 classes, welcoming the newest cohort of CSI’s continuing education students.