Immigrant Student Success Office Hosts Graduation Ceremony for Immigrant Students 

Courtesy of T'Neil Gooden

By T’Neil Gooden


   As the spring semester comes to an end, graduating seniors of Brooklyn College’s Immigrant Student Success Office (ISSO) said farewell and thanked the staff who helped them during their time at Brooklyn College at a graduation ceremony on May 8. The event brought together students, families, and faculty members to celebrate those in the community as they stepped into the next chapter of their lives. 

   The Student Center’s Gold Room was decorated in shades of gold and black and adorned with round centerpieces reading, “Way to Go Grad!” Members of the BC community filled the room in their formal attire, with tuxedos, dresses, and pantsuits to mark the occasion. Family members were given pins and cards to fill out if they wanted to write a special note to their graduating students. A playlist filled with music of different cultures and genres, such as Afrobeat, Pop, and Reggaeton brought liveliness to the room. 

   The ISSO graduation ceremony is an annual event that shines a light on the students who have surpassed their time with the program. ISSO members who are watching their fellows leave reminisced on the time spent together and expressed how ISSO has helped them in their time within BC. 

   “This community has benefited me in unmeasurable ways. The love, support, and motivation the space has given me have contributed to my success as a student. The people I’ve met through the space have become important friends and representations of the things we can all accomplish regardless of status,” Brenda Bravo, the program and community building Federman Fellow at ISSO, told The Vanguard. 

   ISSO’s mission is to enroll, recruit, and retain students who are new immigrants, providing the necessary academic and non-academic support to ensure graduation from BC, according to its mission statement. This includes students who are included in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAMERS), as well as first-generation students.

   “The ceremony allowed graduates to share their stories and experiences. While awarding them for their contribution to ISSO and the Brooklyn College as a whole,” Darla Moise, a graduating senior and a USG senator, told The Vanguard. “It was also a chance for a more intimate setting for families to bask in their children’s success while having it as a safe place, a space dedicated to protecting those of vulnerable immigration status.”  

   The ceremony started with Jesus Perez, director of ISSO, who expressed his pride and gratitude to the students who had joined the ISSO community and had stayed within the institution until it was their time to graduate.

   “This is an environment where those who felt alone were able to find a community,” Perez said. “Congratulations to all the graduates and we know you will thrive in your upcoming journeys.” 

   Ronald Jackson, the vice president of Student Affairs at BC, followed Perez on the stage to say a few words of encouragement and motivation to the ISSO student graduates. 

   “Your achievements are testaments to your resilience,” Jackson said. “Continue to spread your wings and show your commitment to wherever life takes you.” 

   Next, students gave their speeches, received their awards, and said their farewell speeches to their fellow ISSO peers and to their family members who sat among the crowd. Students expressed their gratitude to director Jesus Perez, ISSO members, and their family members for supporting them on their journey. Emily Villavicencio, a graduating senior studying anthropology, gave a speech in English and Spanish to the crowd. 

   “Being proud of who you are, that is what matters […] being unique,” Villavicencio told the audience.

   Guest speaker Anayeli Gomez-Brittain, an immigrants’ rights advocate and alumni of the ISSO program, spoke about her experiences while in college and shared advice she wants ISSO graduates to follow as they go on their journeys. 

   “Reenergize, refuel, and do whatever you decide to do with great passion,” Brittain told the ISSO community. 

   For the graduates moving on to the next chapter in their lives, they are excited to continue to see ISSO grow after they are gone. 

   “The graduation ceremony is a meaningful event for the ISSO community, we have grown so much within the last few years,” Bravo said. “Seeing the growth of our community and being able to celebrate each other in this space is one of our biggest accomplishments yet.”


       Students who want to get involved in the ISSO community can go to the ISSO office in room 117 of Roosevelt Hall or follow them on their Instagram, @issobc. 


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