The first graduates from the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at Hostos Community College walked the stage on Thursday, June 1, 2017. Dressed in full caps and gowns, graduates Jessica GonzálezJavaris HaynesKrysten LópezDavid Olenick, and Geraldine Roche received their certificates from the school’s president, Dr. David Gómez and were celebrated with a thunderous ovation from the hundreds of other graduates and audience members in attendance.

David Olenick was excited to take the next step. “This is a huge moment in our lives,” the graduate said. David was unsure what he wanted to do immediately following graduation, but did know that he wanted to remain connected to the Hostos program. “I’m so happy for everyone here and I want to stay in touch with them,” David said.

Hostos Community College was the third school in the CUNY system to partner with the Melissa Riggio Program, preceded by the College of Staten Island and Kingsborough Community College, (KCC) A fourth program began at Borough of Manhattan Community College two years ago, and that cohort will be celebrating its first graduates in 2018.

Autumn Hester is building a bright future for herself and encouraging others to do so along the way. On June 15th, she graduated from the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program at Kingsborough Community College, through which she had the opportunity to prepare for adult life through higher education coursework, career exploration and preparation, the development of self-efficacy and opportunities to build social relationships.

AHRC NYC gave me the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience for what I want to accomplish in the future,” says Autumn. “I was able to become CPR-certified and I also received two certificates: one for detection of Child Abuse and the other for detection of Diseases for Early Childhood. After graduation, I would like to work towards my teaching certification. I would like to be a teacher because I love working with children. If I can continue working with AHRC NYC that would be a dream come true.”

Autumn has already built up an extensive resume, working with children on special arts and crafts projects as a field work assignment with Brooklyn Blue Feather Elementary School, where she was a classroom intern, and at the KCC Day Care Program. She is currently an interning for the Friends of Crown Heights Education Center where she reads to children ages 2-4.