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New England College graduates look ahead to future triumphs

  • Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and potential 2020 presidential contender Julian Castro, of San Antonio, Tex., addresses the graduating class of New England College, May 12, 2018. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt

  • Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and potential 2020 presidential contender Julian Castro, of San Antonio, Tex., addresses the graduating class of New England College, May 12, 2018. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt

  • Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and potential 2020 presidential contender Julian Castro, of San Antonio, Texas, addresses the graduating class of New England College in Henniker on Saturday. Ethan DeWitt / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, May 12, 2018

They traveled to Kenya to study sustainable improvements to irrigation systems. They flew to Texas to aid hurricane relief efforts, and spent semesters in Belize for tropical marine biology and on ships that crossed oceans. Some ran for student government; others teamed up to secure the first North Atlantic Conference Championship men’s basketball title in the school’s history.

But moments before members of the New England College Class of 2018 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas Saturday, one graduate argued the most important moment was the one at the end.

“Mark Twain once said: The two most important days in our lives are the day we were born and the day we find out why,” said class president Luis Fernando Aviles, speaking to classmates. “Well, we’re already born, and we’ve only been waiting to find out why. That day is today.”

For Aviles, it was a day that gave a sense of purpose and confidence. A marketing graduate from Connecticut, he isn’t personally sure what tomorrow will hold, he admitted after the ceremony. But he said the school had put him on a path.

“NEC has helped me find who I am,” he said.

For others, the college moved them toward long-held dreams.

Ambimbola Stephanie Faleye, of Brockton, Mass., graduating with a bachelor’s in natural and social sciences, plans to pursue a last minute change in majors – from biology to psychology – and go to graduate school at the University of Massachusetts.

And Sindhuja Kanamarlapudi, who graduated with a master’s degree in computer information systems, said she planned to attain practical experience in the U.S. and eventually return to Guntur, India, equipped to pursue her dream career.

“One thing, it’s a very happy moment, and the second thing, all my friends are going to split,” Kanamarlapudi said. “I’m going to miss all the places here – my teachers, my friends.”

For many graduates, their success hearkens to the character of the school itself: a small college of about 3,000 students in downtown Henniker. The class sizes are low but the college’s reach is wide; graduates hailed from Florida, to Nevada, to India.

“It actually helps me the fact that it’s a small campus, because the classes are smaller,” Faleye said. “It gives the teacher an easier way to focus on the students more.”

Part of that character caught the attention of Julian Castro, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a recipient of the school’s honorary degree Saturday. In a commencement address, Castro took note of the school’s founding, in 1946, as a destination for servicemen and women receiving post-war higher education under the G.I. Bill.

“That generation – the greatest generation – had already given so much to our nation by the time they found themselves here,” said Castro, who is considering a Democratic candidacy for president. “And in the years that followed, they would help build the America that we know today.”

“So as Pilgrims, giving back is in your DNA,” he added, using the school’s nickname. “And now it’s your turn.”

To Aviles, it was a bar that his classmates have easily cleared.

“So many of these people sitting in front of me have worn different hats to fit each and everyone’s role in the school,” he said behind the podium. “As we graduate today, Class of 2018, we find out why we were born.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at
@edewittNH.)