Berkeley College Grads Are Defined by "Guts and Greatness," Says U.S. Senator Cory Booker, in a Video Message to the Class of 2021

Thursday, May 27, 2021
Contact: Chanel Donaldson
Senior Associate, Media Relations



Berkeley College celebrates its commencement with an in-person ceremony honoring 1,800 graduates on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Graduates from August 2019 through April 2021 will be recognized during morning and afternoon sessions.

“Through all the challenges of the last year you have persevered,” said Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College. “I am very proud of each of you for your persistent determination during this time.”

U.S. Senators Cory Booker, NJ, and Chuck Schumer, NY, Send Graduates Congratulatory Video Messages







“Berkeley College Class of 2021, the Class of grit, and guts, and greatness. You have told the world that you are not defined by what happens to you, you are defined by how you choose to respond,” said Booker.

Schumer encouraged graduates to embrace new opportunities even in times of uncertainty. “Many of you may not be sure what you are going to do next. Do not let the harshness of this past year prevent you from seizing new opportunities,” said Schumer. “You have incredible assets: a college degree from a great institution and loving families who have your back … You are our future leaders and we have faith in you.”

Commencement 2021 by the Numbers









Photo Caption:
A snapshot of the Berkeley College Class of 2021 highlights that graduates exemplify diversity and scholarship. Grads represent a range of demographic characteristics and academic disciplines. More than 41% graduated with honors.

Here are examples of the rich diversity and resilience of Berkeley College Graduates in 2021, who persevered through a difficult year:

Sisters Graduate Berkeley College Together after Emigrating from the Dominican Republic as Teens

Cruz Jaquez Sisters

Sisters Pamela and Gabriela Cruz Jaquez of Hawthorne, NJ, moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2016 with one goal in mind: to build a better life. The two left their small hometown of Tamboril, Santiago, with their father as teenagers in the hopes of accessing more opportunities. Five years later, they have earned Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees. With pandemic travel bans lifted, their mother is able to make the trip to MetLife Stadium to see her daughters graduate. Click here to read more.

Double the Berkeley College Pride for Graduating Bronx Twins


Fraternal twins Myesha and Tyesha Wilson are graduating from Berkeley College – Myesha with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Tyesha with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management. The Bronx natives stayed resilient, overcoming personal challenges and supported one another to earn this achievement.

Myesha was involved in a bus accident that injured her spine during her sophomore year. Additional bus and car collisions worsened her spinal injury and affected her vision. If not for the support of her twin sister Tyesha, her professors, academic advisor, personal counseling staff and even Berkeley College security officers who accommodated her physical limitations and encouraged her to continue with her studies, Myesha said she would have left school. Now Myesha looks forward to a future in law enforcement and Tyesha plans to start her journey as an entrepreneur. Click here to read more.

Identical Twin Graduates, Now Fathers, Credit Berkeley College and Family Support as Key Factor to their Success


For Ja’Von Drakeford, of Haskell, NJ, and his identical twin brother, Ja’Van Drakeford, of Belleville, NJ, the journey to earning a college degree took a few turns. Both have earned Associate in Applied Science degrees in Criminal Justice from Berkeley College after struggling at other institutions. Now both fathers, they credit their families for the support and inspiration that helped get them to where they are today. “Honestly, I never expected myself to be a college graduate,” said Ja’Von. “As soon as I came to Berkeley, it was a whole different mood, a different mentality.” Click here to read more.

Berkeley College Graduate and Healthcare Hero Ashley Foster Balances Life as a Full-Time Student, Full-Time LPN and Mother of Two during Pandemic


Ashley Foster of Hackensack, NJ, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), completing the Berkeley College School of Health Studies LPN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program in August 2021, has worked in healthcare for 8 years.  She began as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) before earning her License as a Practical Nurse and became one of Berkeley’s student volunteers on the frontlines this year, administering COVID-19 vaccines to New Jersey residents at a drive-thru vaccination site in Clifton, NJ.

In addition to being a full-time student and mother of two, Foster worked throughout the pandemic as a full-time LPN at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, NJ. “I learned a lot about patience and understanding … You just have to be there for one another,” she said. Click here to read more about Berkeley College student and faculty volunteers at the drive-thru vaccination site in Clifton, NJ.

Military Service and Degrees from Berkeley College Provide Profound Re-Entry in Civilian Life


Photo Caption: (Left) Gabby Peralta of Newark, NJ, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who earned a Bachelor in Business Administration degree in Management from Berkeley College in 2020, works in the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs while enrolled in the College’s Master of Business Administration in Management program. (Right) Kadir Hamid McMillian of the Bronx, NY, a recent graduate of Berkeley College who serves in the U.S. Navy, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in General Business from Berkeley College. He seeks to combine his love of real estate and information technology to help others going forward.

As Berkeley College celebrates 120 military-aligned graduates this year, including those on active duty, veterans and military family members, two such grads have shared their stories recently. "These graduates have given of themselves in service not only through the military, but also to each other, as they continued to face the challenges of college to pursue their professional careers and successful civilian roles. And Berkeley College has been with them every step of the way," said Edward Dennis, Associate Vice President, Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (OMVA). Click here to read more.

M.B.A. Graduate, Entrepreneur, and Father of Five Overcomes Personal and Professional Obstacles to Earn a Master of Business Administration


David Brown of West Haven, CT, graduating from Berkeley with a Master of Business Administration in Management, is a father of five and Brooklyn native who founded DBTS Trucking Services, Inc., based in Rocky Hill, CT. The freight delivery company that partners with FedEx Custom Critical to transport high-value pharmaceutical products across the 48 contiguous United States and Canada was kept afloat during the pandemic through emergency funding granted by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The first time Brown was able to access capital for his company was after submitting 37 loan applications. Click here to read more.

Student Honorees and Alumnus of the Year


Photo Caption: Left to right: Panagiota Babadelis of West New York, NJ, was named Outstanding Student of the Year. Naomi Dunston of Brooklyn, NY, was the Student Speaker at the 2021 Berkeley College Commencement Ceremony. Maurice Barrett of Oak Ridge, NJ, was named 2021 Berkeley College Alumnus of the Year.

Berkeley College graduate Panagiota Babadelis of West New York, NJ, is the 2021 Outstanding Student, an award presented annually to a graduate who has met high standards of academic excellence while overcoming personal, professional or financial obstacles. Babadelis enrolled at Berkeley College already having career experience in the world of music. Over the span of five years, she lost her father who battled cancer, her grandfather who helped raise her, and she was diagnosed with a disease that could end her life. “The trials and tribulations we are put through are a testament to building strength and character,” said Babadelis.

Naomi L. Dunston of Brooklyn, NY, earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in General Business from Berkeley College after two prior attempts to complete a Bachelor’s degree at other institutions. She says that inadequate financial aid was the primary obstacle to degree completion. During her time as a student, Dunston was an advocate on the Association of Proprietary Colleges Student Leadership Council and active in other clubs and activities. She delivered a passionate and heartfelt message to fellow graduates in a recorded message broadcast as part of the College’s virtual Commencement ceremony on May 7, 2021.  “You are an example of a ‘thriver,’” Dunston said. “A light that shines through unprecedented times … Let me remind you to not give crisis power. It is not stronger than you. Your experiences, good and bad, are growth opportunities.”

Maurice K. Barrett was named 2021 Alumnus of the Year. Barrett is a 2012 graduate of Berkeley College and Senior Human Resources Director at the Newark Museum of Art in Newark, NJ. He offered graduates words of advice, “Run your race at your own pace and in your own time. You can get there quickly without rushing. Everything you do, do with humanity,” he said.

Click to read more about Panagiota Babadelis, Naomi Dunston, and Maurice Barrett.

Berkeley College celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2021. Graduates of the Berkeley College Class of 2021 join a network of more than 60,000 Berkeley College alumni eligible to receive lifetime career assistance.

About Berkeley College
Berkeley College, founded in 1931, is a career-focused institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that offers students Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College also offers continuing education programs to enhance career credentials.

Berkeley College has campuses in Midtown Manhattan and White Plains, NY, as well as in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park, NJ, with more than 4,900 students enrolled. In addition, Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, for eight consecutive years. The website address is

The mission of Berkeley College is to empower students to achieve lifelong success in dynamic careers.