On May 14, 2018, more than 1500 graduates, along with their family and loved ones, celebrated their accomplishments at the Prudential Center, where Newark's own Queen Latifah delivered an inspiring address, encouraging the newly minted graduates to "Be your own role model" and give back to their home. "Home is what shapes you, but you have a responsibility to your home, too. Be a citizen. Take a chance on that next kid who comes along the way, the way someone took a chance on you, the way someone took a chance on me."
The hip-hop icon, award-winning actress, singer/songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and humanitarian was selected for this honor by a committee of students, faculty, and staff, for her personal achievements as well as her commitment to giving back. She also received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the ceremony, declaring afterward, "I'm always asked by people what should I call you? Queen? Latifah? Dana? After today, you can just call me doctor."
Giving back to their communities and fighting to create a better world was a theme echoed by all the speakers at the ceremony, from Newark's Mayor Ras Baraka, who told the graduates that "we need you to move our city forward, our state forward, our country forward, and this world forward," to student speaker Sheila Zagarra, who spoke about her experiences and struggles as a Dreamer. She went on to say "The real magic is in what we do every day to shape the world around us," and encouraged her fellow graduates to "be brave and make kindness a habit. I know there is greatness in every one of you."
View Livestream from the event (Note: Ceremony begins 1:39 minutes into video)
All photos by Anthony Alvarez