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Congratulations, Class of 2024!

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Dr. Jocelynne Rainey

Dr. Jocelynne Rainey’s commencement address to the New York City College of Technology graduating Class of 2024 on June 6, 2024 at the Barclays Center:

Good afternoon, President Holtzer, esteemed faculty and staff, proud parents, dedicated friends, and, above all, the accomplished graduates of the Class of 2024. It is with immense honor and a profound sense of gratitude that I stand before you today, amidst the grandeur of New York City and in the heart of my beloved Brooklyn, to celebrate your remarkable achievements.

New York City College of Technology, or City Tech, as we fondly call it, is indeed a true gem in the CUNY system. It is a place where ambition is kindled, where dreams take flight, and where aspirations are transformed into tangible success. As someone who has had a long-standing relationship with this institution, my affection and admiration for City Tech have only grown stronger over the past 15 years.

The draw for me has always been the scholars, the students who are the lifeblood of this vibrant institution. You, the graduates, are a reflection of the city we call home – a mosaic of cultures, ideas, and potential. You embody the diversity, the tenacity, the indefatigable spirit of New York City – a place synonymous with dreams and the dreamers who chase them. And today, you stand as a testament to the realization of those very dreams.

Let us also acknowledge the dedicated faculty and staff whose commitment to your success has been unwavering. They have not only imparted knowledge but have also prepared you to step confidently into the labor market, armed with skills, creativity, and the kind of practical wisdom that only a City Tech education can provide. Parents and loved ones, your graduates are poised to conquer the world, ready to make their mark, and it is indeed a time to rest assured and rejoice in their readiness.

However, I also understand that on this day of celebration, there might be a whisper of uncertainty about what lies ahead. Let me assure you, this is perfectly normal.

Today, you see me as a CEO, someone with a doctorate, titles, and accolades that I could not have envisioned when I stood where you are now. School was easy for me, but it wasn’t my focus. My life was dominated by ever-changing challenges – a daily grind with constant moves, new schools, and the incessant need to fit in. Despite being third-generation college-educated, my journey was far from a straight line. It was punctuated with instability and upheaval. But it taught me adaptability, and the importance of finding joy amidst chaos.

The most pivotal lesson I learned was that whatever I did, it had to serve others. It had to contribute to a world that was fairer, just, and kind. This realization took root not in a boardroom, but at 15 while working at Wendy’s. It was there I understood that leaving any place – and its people – better than I found them, was the goal. This ethos is universal and can be applied regardless of your role or industry.

Life is a journey filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. It’s a rollercoaster ride that can often leave us feeling like we’re careening down an unseen hill, unsure of what lies ahead. But it’s important to remember that even when things seem tough, even when we face rejection and setbacks, we must stay the course and keep moving forward.

I remember the time when I graduated from college with high hopes and dreams, only to be met with a series of rejection letters. It felt like my future was in jeopardy, like all my hard work had been for nothing. But looking back, I realize that those moments of defeat were just small bumps on the road to where I was truly meant to be.

I thought I was destined for a career in banking, a path that promised financial security and stability. But deep down, I knew that wasn’t my true calling. It took a few rejections and a lot of soul-searching to lead me to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the journey that led to me being the CEO of Brooklyn Org allowing me to do work that I love.

So I urge you all to embrace the challenges that come your way, to see them not as obstacles but as opportunities for growth and self-discovery. Keep pushing forward, keep striving for your dreams, even when it feels like the odds are stacked against you. Remember that setbacks are just temporary roadblocks on the path to your ultimate destination.

And so, to the illustrious graduates of the Class of 2024, I present you with a challenge:

Embrace your journey and your unique dreams. Do not be swayed by the expectations of others; carve your own path, one that brings you true fulfillment and happiness, even if it means taking unexpected turns.

Prioritize your wellbeing. For me, this first means regular health check-ups, exercise, and rest. It means putting my family second only to my health, my work third, and my friendships fourth. Such clarity helps me navigate life’s decisions, and while your priorities may differ, I urge you to define and adhere to them.

Remember, you are equipped with everything you need to succeed. You are a City Tech graduate, prepared to face the world’s challenges with poise and confidence.

Always bring your authentic self to the table. Your individuality is your strength, and your excellence will pave the way for those who follow.

Pursue your passions. Success is not about sticking to a preordained path but about seizing the joy in what you do, sometimes in the most unexpected places.

Show up, not just physically, but with your whole being. Engagement is the currency of opportunity; it builds relationships, opens doors, and creates a legacy. I did this by stepping up when called on, volunteering when I wasn’t asked, and always asking for opportunities to learn new skills.

And finally, do not let the actions of others dictate your self-worth. Offer grace, but also understand that you are worthy of and destined for greatness. You did the work! Class of 2024, as you step forward into the world, do so with the knowledge that you are ready, with hearts full of hope and minds brimming with ideas. Today marks not just the culmination of your academic journey but the beginning of a new chapter, one where you will undoubtedly bring your best selves to all that you do.

Stay strong, stay resilient, and stay true to yourself. The journey may be long and arduous, but I promise you, if you keep moving forward, you will reach the summit of your ultimate mountain. Believe in yourself, trust in the process, and never lose sight of the amazing things that lie ahead.

Congratulations, Class of 2024! The world awaits your brilliance. Thank you.


A large group of graduates in caps and gowns sit in rows while a speaker in academic regalia addresses them from the front at a graduation ceremony.