Berkeley leaders support—and celebrate—with graduate Roylyn McNatt

It was a difficult journey to the graduation stage for Roylyn McNatt. Between the pressure of working full-time and issues with completing her course work, there were times she was ready to give up and walk away. She credits her support from Berkeley College—which included President Dr. Diane Recinos and Campus Operating Officers (COO) LaTysha Gaines and Linda Mauro, as well as others—with making it possible. They not only provided Roylyn with the accommodations she needed, they—along with a member of the College’s Board of Trustees—joined her at her graduation party where Roylyn sat at the piano with the live band to celebrate her accomplishment.

The support to succeed

“They [Recinos, Gaines, and Mauro] were game changers for me,” said Roylyn. “At one point, I went to COO Gaines crying and said, ‘I can’t do it, I’m leaving.’ They're the reason I made it through to finishing my degree. These ladies demonstrated and walked me through what it means to empower. I am grateful to say I have the highest respect for them. This is exactly what I needed to help me improve in my career.”

Finding the right fit

An employee of New Jersey Transit for more than 30 years, Roylyn was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Management in 2022. She had begun her studies at another school, but the approach at Berkeley College appealed more to her. “When I arrived at Berkeley, I was inspired to listen more, to care more, and to respond more. I made connections with the faculty and staff at Berkeley,” she recalled. “Instead of just telling me what they offered, I informed them what I wanted. And they listened to me.”

A long, difficult road

Still, Roylyn faced more than her share of obstacles. She was working a split shift—at work from 5:30 to 10:00 in the morning, attending classes in between, then back to work until 7:00 in the evening and finding time to study late at night. “Some nights, I could barely look at my computer screen,” she remembered. ADA issues (Americans with Disabilities Act) added to her struggle. “There were times I felt embarrassed not understanding things,” she noted. The setbacks continued: shortly after her father passed away, Roylyn’s car was destroyed during Hurricane Ida. “But COO Gaines stepped in. She worked with me through my issues and made sure accommodations were made. She said, “Roylyn, you are going to graduate!”

Celebrating together

DIane Recinos, LaTysha Gaines, Roylyn McNatt, Linda MauroUnder the tutelage of President Recinos and COO Gaines, Roylyn was able to look deeper into herself, change her way of thinking, and generate new ideas for her future. This motivated and encouraged her greatly. She graduated magna cum laude and was a member of the Sigma Beta Delta National Honor Society, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and the Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honor Society, making her celebration even sweeter. “I knew that COO Gaines was coming, but a last-minute schedule change made it possible for President Recinos, who had called to check on me early that morning, to be there as well.” As a further surprise, Berkeley Board of Trustees member Busie Matsiko-Andan, an award-winning global strategist and entrepreneur (and also a Berkeley graduate) also made it to the party.

“It was an amazing day,” Roylyn said of the party. “It was a thank you to everyone who had helped me along the way. It was also a dream come true to be joined on the stage by several of my heroes, some of the musicians—including the one who convinced me to return to college in the first place—who have greatly influenced me throughout my life.” A photo from the celebration now hangs in the Berkeley College offices.

Discovering new skills

The party may turn out to be more than just a celebration. The owners of the café where the party was held were impressed by how well Roylyn organized everything so quickly and efficiently. She’s been approached by another entrepreneur about the possibility of an event planning business, something she may consider as she nears closer to retirement.

”Watching Roylyn evolve as a student at the College and seeing her determination to be the best she could be was invigorating,” said President Recinos. “I was happy she allowed me to be a part of her journey.”

Sharing what she’s learned

Always focused on improving herself, Roylyn offered some advice to others pondering their future. “Communication is important,” she emphasized. “Learn to advocate for yourself. Learn how to articulate and what to articulate. Develop relationships with the Berkeley administrators and don’t be afraid to request assistance if you need it.”

Leaving her mark on Berkeley College

Latysha Gaines and Roylyn McNatt“Roylyn’s tenacity and desire to understand and grow is refreshing and encouraging,” noted COO Gaines. “Her thirst and zeal for education has left an impact on me and the entire Berkeley College family. She believed she came to Berkeley to obtain her degree, but she has also added to the rich history and fabric of Berkeley College!”

Roylyn went on, “COO Gaines gave me a nickname, ”the sun” and encouraged me to live up to that name. She told me, ‘The gift of the sun cannot be compared to any other. And you cannot be compared to any other.’ She pushed me to continue to shine and continue to be great.” And like the sun, Roylyn is a star.

The views and/or opinions in this article are those of the individuals interviewed. The academic achievements and/or employment outcomes described in this article are specific to each individual and are not a guarantee of similar results for past or current students. For up-to-date and detailed information, please visit and view our catalogs at