Eight hundred candidates to receive diplomas at December Commencement

NEW PALTZ — The State University of New York at New Paltz will hold December Commencement exercises from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie on Saturday, Dec. 21. Eight hundred graduate candidates will be graduated from the university during the ceremony.

In addition to a speech by the class valedictorian, Klodian Vangjeli, SUNY New Paltz Interim President Steven Poskanzer will offer brief remarks.

Vangjeli, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree computer science, grew up in Albania and transferred to New Paltz from New York College in Athens, Greece. His remarks will focus on his experiences at New Paltz as an international student.

After graduating, Vangjeli will begin his master’s program at New Paltz while performing duties as a teaching assistant in the Computer Science Department. “We feel very lucky to have him,” said Paul Zuckerman, chairman of the Computer Science Department. “Klodian is not only a superior student, but he is also a gentleman. He is a generous person and does not hesitate to give his time to others.”

The graduating class’ salutatorian, Kevin Rickard, will receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish/Latin American Studies. Rickard, a Poughkeepsie resident, spent one year studying Spanish at Dutchess County Community College before transferring to New Paltz. Also, he spent one year in Guayaquil, Equador, in a study abroad program. After graduation, Rickard plans to join the Army and study Chinese.

Each of the 350 scholars celebrating their achievements on Saturday has a story to tell, however, none may be quite as unique as the Ali Elsakka sisters.

Biology is the common denominator

The three Ali Elsakka sisters, Naglaa, Safaa and Zainab, will all earn their bachelor degrees in biology. Taking the same classes and attending summer school, the three sisters, two who are twins, Naglaa and Safaa, finished their biology degrees in three years.

“They are very dedicated and extremely sincere,” said Denis Moran, one of their biology professors at SUNY New Paltz. “Their personalities are all quite different and they view themselves as individuals. They are excellent students and very well spoken, and it has been a pleasure to teach them.”

Born in Egypt, the Ali Elsakka sisters moved to the United States while they were in grade school. All three studied at Newburgh Free Academy before returning to Egypt to begin medical school. However, after two years in Egypt they decided that they would receive a better education in the United States and enrolled as freshman at SUNY New Paltz.

After graduation, they plan to take a year off before enrolling in graduate studies at SUNY New Paltz.

Note to media: The commencement ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Media planning to cover the ceremony should arrive by 10:30 and proceed to the media registration table in the center of the lobby area. Registered media will be provided a “press pass” that will provide access to the candidate and stage areas.