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Berkeley College recently celebrated more than 1,400 graduates who persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic to earn diplomas, including two past NJBIA Rising Star award winners who received special honors at the commencement.

Nallely Inoa, of Paterson, a first-generation college student who won a 2021 NJBIA Rising Star Award, served as student speaker at the May 13 commencement held at the Prudential Center in Newark. Inoa graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

Gabrielle Peralta, of Newark, a former Marine who won a 2020 NJBIA Rising Star Award, was honored as Student of the Year at the commencement. Peralta earned a Master of Business Administration in Management degree and plans to become a small business owner, operating her own line of bakery trucks.

The Berkeley Class of 2022 included 116 military and veteran graduates, 73 international students, 104 students earning MBA degrees, and many first-generation college students. Nearly 100 students graduated with either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Practical Nurse certificate and will be entering the workforce at a critical juncture in healthcare when one-third of nurses are planning to retire or leave the profession.

“Dreams do not come easy,” said Diane Recinos, Ed.D., who presided over her first commencement ceremony as president of Berkeley College. “But you already know that, for you have persevered through a pandemic, in addition to dealing with the unforeseen circumstances and everyday responsibilities of your lives.”

Recinos added: “As you set your compass to the future, let your dreams be your inspiration and your Berkeley College education be your guidepost.”

The average age of this year’s Berkeley College graduate is 30, with 67% of the graduates aged 25 or older. Nearly 80% of the graduates identified their ethnicity as Black or Hispanic.

“You each have your own unique story of how you came to Berkeley College,” said Kevin L. Luing, Berkeley College Board chairman. “As an alumnus of Berkeley College, your story continues. As your career progresses, we will always be here to support you in your professional development. You are the future leaders of the workforce and in the community.”

Berkeley College is a career-focused institution that offers students master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees, as well as certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College also offers continuing education programs to enhance career credentials.

Berkeley College has more than 4,000 students enrolled at its campuses in Midtown Manhattan, Newark, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. U.S. News & World Report named Berkeley College one of the Best Regional Colleges in the North in its 2022 edition of the Best Colleges Survey.