By Emily Drooby
After coming to the U.S. from Egypt as a child, Merna Abdelhalem became the first in her family to graduate. The proud occasion was caught on camera.
“Honestly, it’s more for my parents than it is for me,” Merna says.
The moment her parents dreamed of was almost lost forever. As a member of the Class of 2020, her original ceremony was cancelled because of the pandemic. Now, they’ve gotten that moment back.
“It just means that both my hard work, and their hard work paid off,” Merna says, “which is the point of hard work, right?”
Hundreds of other St. Francis College students and their families sacrificed and worked hard to make their dreams come true.
“I mean I’ve had so many parents come to me, crying, tears in their eyes,” explained the college’s president, Miguel Martinez-Saenz. “My heart is uplifted because this is why we do what we do.”
The school held two commencement ceremonies in the same day at the Coney Island Amphitheater. The Class of 2021 graduated in the afternoon and the Class of 2020 graduated in the morning.
The amphitheater is technically outside and social distancing guidelines were in place. With those protocols, it safely gave the students the moment they’ve worked so hard to reach. At graduation, the moment they walked across stage was one that brought parents to their feet.
“My mom was a teacher in India and my dad also has his Masters in Accounting, but then when they came here, they had to start everything again,” explained Class of 2020 Masters graduate Ginal Patel. “So seeing me do it, make it here, it’ a big moment for them too.”
Ginal has already been working in Accounting for a year, but that didn’t stop her from coming back to celebrate her achievements.
“It feels really good,” she said, “and it feels like we got closure from a chapter of our life.”