SJC Brooklyn Class of 2021 Valedictorian Rachel Rocha has an important message for her classmates: “Determine your own levels of success, persevere and continue to spread kindness to others. You will be unstoppable.”
Rocha, a first-generation college graduate, addressed her class during the Office of Student Life’s virtual “A Toast to Our Graduates” event on Thursday, May 20 — kicking off the weekend’s commencement exercises. Her speech was bright and full of positivity, wishing her classmates well as they transition to the next chapter of their lives.
“What does it even mean to determine your level of success?” asked Rocha, a marketing major with a minor in business administration and a concentration in sports management. “Well, there is no true measurement — so set your own. No matter how difficult a task or goal may be, having perseverance will allow you to make it through.
“It will always seem impossible until it is done,” she continued. “Whether it is running that mile you have been putting aside for weeks, or even making your bed every single morning to start your day — embrace it. Comparing yourself to others, while feeling the pressure of meeting societal expectations, will only make you feel further from success. This moment, right here, as you celebrate your achievements, is success.”
Celebrating the Class of 2021
St. Joseph’s President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D.; Lauren Purcaro, executive director of student involvement, leadership and intercultural engagement at SJC Brooklyn; Paulina Melin, director of alumni engagement; Shantey Hill-Hanna, St. Joseph’s vice president for athletics and campus services and the interim vice president for student affairs; Phillip Dehne, Ph.D., executive dean and a professor and chair of history; and Christopher R. Carroll ’88, president of SJC’s board of trustees, joined Rocha in honoring the Class of 2021’s achievements.
“You had unprecedented challenges and, even during a pandemic, your passion, dreams and determination were not shaken,” Melin said during the virtual event. “You reached your goal, despite having to suddenly learn remotely, despite having to reconfigure your lives, and even with personal and family trials. In the face of all of these obstacles, and in the face of the pandemic, you did it. There is incredible strength in your experience.”
Carroll announced SJC Brooklyn’s recipient of the inaugural Donald R. Boomgaarden Leadership in Action award, which honors a student from each campus who has embraced characteristics of positive leadership, have continuously displayed traits that contribute to a positive campus environment and who have supported connections between various campus groups aimed to enhance the quality of student life.
Andrew Wenzler, the recipient of the award, holds all of these qualities, and more. Wenzler double-majored in child study and speech communication studies and was a member of the Sigma Iota Pi, Delta Epsilon Sigma and Kappa Delta Pi honor societies. He is also a member of the campus’ community service club S.T.R.I.P.E.S., attended two Alternative Spring Break trips, led the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive and the Giving Tree, and participated in many fundraiser and community service events on campus.