Shardeh Berry, Single Mom and Honors Student, Will Address a Record Crowd at Commencement

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Saturday, May 5, an estimated 1,260 graduates will receive their associate degrees as Valencia College celebrates its 43rd spring commencement at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

Twenty-four-year-old Shardeh Berry, who was named the 2011-12 Distinguished Graduate by the Valencia Alumni Association, will give this year’s commencement address. In addition to being a full-time honors student and single mom to two small children, Berry has found the time to serve her fellow students. She is vice president of the West Campus Student Government Association representing almost 20,000 students, and has held leadership roles with numerous clubs and organizations.

“Valencia students are not people who have carefree lives,” says Shardeh, who will graduate with an honors certificate.  “We have jobs, children or people who are depending on us. But I want all students to know that you can be involved and being involved will change your life. I’m a better speaker and I’m better at time management than I used to be. And I have made friendships that will last forever.”

Berry plans to attend the University of Central Florida, where she wants to study international relations and ultimately work at the United Nations, focusing on human rights.

This will be the college’s first commencement as Valencia College, having changed its name from Valencia Community College last July. To honor the occasion and the graduates, the college posted the names of more than 8,000 students who graduated this school year on a Lynx bus with the message: “Congrats Class of 2012.” The bus will be parked just outside the arena for graduation photos of the students and their families. (For a photo of last year’s bus, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/myvalencia/5710557915/)

Valencia is ranked first in the nation among all community colleges in the number of associate degrees awarded, second in the number of associate degrees awarded to Hispanics and third in the number awarded to African Americans.

Valencia’s overall graduation rate is nearly three times that of similar, large urban public community colleges as defined by the U.S. Department of Education. In the last decade, graduation rates for college ready students increased at Valencia by almost ten percent to 44.8 percent from 35.9 percent after four years.

Commencement exercises will take place at 10 a.m. at Silver Spurs Arena, Osceola Heritage Park, on U.S. Hwy. 192 in Kissimmee. The ceremony can be viewed live at http://valenciacollege.edu/graduation/live.cfm.

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