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City Colleges of Chicago Celebrates Class of 2019 at Commencement Ceremony

5/4/2019 1:00 PM

City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado today offered congratulations and encouragement to the graduates gathered with family and friends to celebrate their commencement at Wintrust Arena.

This year, more than 4,000 students are expected to earn their associate degree from City Colleges, as an important step toward their future goals, whether they are transferring to a four-year college in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree or launching or advancing a career in an in-demand field.

“City Colleges students are getting a reputation in Chicago – a reputation among employers and four-year universities for being hard-working, ambitious, and talented leaders,” said Chancellor Juan Salgado.

“By offering quality, affordable education, City Colleges is helping ensure people from across our city’s communities can contribute their talents to our city’s growth and create a more inclusive Chicago economy,” he continued.

Many City Colleges graduates are the first in their family to attend college. Often, these students are working and caring for families while studying for their degrees. This year’s graduating class includes three of Illinois’ four recipients of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholarship, which offers transfer students up to $40,000 per year towards the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree. The graduates also include Chicago Star Scholars, CPS high school graduates whose hard work earned them an associate degree for free at City Colleges.

Each of the seven colleges has a valedictorian and salutatorian, and they form an impressive group that includes a former GED student, Chicago Star Scholars, a veteran, parents, and students pursuing in-demand careers in fields like healthcare, education, and information technology.

Here are some of City Colleges’ inspiring graduates:

• Cindy Alvarez (Kennedy-King College) - As soon as Englewood resident Cindy Alvarez graduated from Lane Tech High School in 1994, she went to work, got married, and had children. Her five children grew up talking about college, so Cindy knew she had to lead by example. Cindy is this year’s Kennedy-King College valedictorian, and is set to continue her education in the fall. Cindy will study accounting at Purdue, Governors State, UIC, or Saint Xavier. One of her sons also recently enrolled at Kennedy-King College, following in Cindy’s footsteps.

• Jacqueline Amezcua-Lopez (Kennedy-King College) - Tragedy struck Amezcua-Lopez at age 13 when her father passed away while on a family trip to Mexico. She found the best way to honor his memory was to carry on his passion for baking. She began her formal training when she joined a cake decorating club during her freshman year at Kelly High School. A Chicago Star Scholar who attending City Colleges at no cost, she will graduate from Kennedy-King College as the salutatorian with an Associate of Applied Science in Baking and Pastry Arts, and plans to transfer to De Paul University or the University of Illinois-Chicago to earn her bachelor’s degree in business.

• Robert Newson (Olive-Harvey College) – Robert Newson, a father of three and grandfather of two, had been working his way up in the healthcare field for 29 years without a college degree before he decided to follow his passion and enroll at Olive-Harvey College to study information technology.  The Olive-Harvey College valedictorian completed his associate degree this winter and has transferred to DeVry University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in technical management.

• Ed Richardson III (Harold Washington College) – Ed Richardson III was part of the Aon apprenticeship program, which means he worked as an Aon claims analyst while attending Harold Washington College (HWC). Knowing that a career in security—his field before entering City Colleges—was not the path he wanted, Ed took a leap and enrolled at HWC and took advantage of the work-based learning opportunity at Aon. He knew being a student again would be challenging, so he used his time at HWC to improve writing, public speaking, grammar, math and communications skills. Ed completed his associate degree this winter, and continues to work at Aon in its reinsurance division while attending DePaul University for his bachelor’s degree.

• Laura Rybaltowska (Wright College) - After graduating in 2015 from high school in Poland, Laura Rybaltowska came to Chicago. As part of her arrangement as an au pair, she was required to take some classes and ended up at Wilbur Wright College, where her English improved. On Saturday, she walks across the stage as the valedictorian from Wright College with an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. She has already started work as a paralegal at an immigration law firm in St. Louis. 

• Elizabeth Sandoval (Daley College) - Daley College valedictorian Elizabeth Sandoval graduated with her associate degree in child development. Elizabeth was intent on her daughter not growing up saying her mother didn’t attend college. She is currently doing her practicum in the preschool classroom at Chicago Public Schools’ Seward Elementary and would like to be a preschool or early elementary teacher.

• David Shore (Truman College) David Shore has had plenty of work experience over the years, but he wanted educational credibility as well. The Truman College salutatorian started a four-year stint in the U.S. Marines instead of graduating high school. At the age of 48, he started his academic journey—first he earned a GED at Truman; then City Colleges’ Gateway program covered half of his tuition as he worked to earn his associate degree from Truman; now he will transfer to either DePaul, UIC, Dominican University or University of Virginia. David’s ultimate goal is to become a counselor.

• Anna Wolak (Malcolm X College) - If there was a silver lining to Anna Wolak’s grandfather passing away, it was that the experience unearthed her passion. She was struck by how caring the funeral staff was, and that drove her to Malcolm X College’s Mortuary Science program. She earned an associate degree in Mortuary Science and did so as Malcolm X’s valedictorian. Anna plans to work in the industry and eventually pursue her bachelor’s degree. Anna is the first in her family to earn a college degree.

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