“Hold this moment in time”: First World New Paltz celebrates 50th annual graduation ceremony


First World Graduates dance in line as they participate in annual ceremony

Dozens of SUNY New Paltz students stood before a standing-room-only audience of family, friends and faculty members and were inducted into the First World New Paltz alumni society at the organization’s 50th annual Commencement-weekend ceremony, on May 20, 2023. Click here for the 2023 First World Graduation gallery.

First World Graduation is a distinctive rite on the end-of-year calendar at New Paltz, and a genuine right of passage for New Paltz alumni of color. It emphasizes the deep historical roots that inform campus culture and intellectual life, while keeping the focus on the exemplary achievements of present-day students and graduates representing groups who have been historically underrepresented in higher education.

“You must hold this moment in time. Today is an embarking day,” said President Darrell P. Wheeler. “We stand here because of the ancestors that came before us with the expectation that you will in the future be the ancestors whose shoulders the next generation stands on.” 

[Click here to view the full list of SUNY New Paltz’s spring 2023 First World Graduates.] 

“You are responsible for your voice, your purpose, your passion, and your narrative,” said Assistant Professor of Black Studies Blair Proctor, the First World Class of 2023 keynote speaker. “No one can take your narrative away from you. You are the CEO of your life.” 

First World Graduation traditions include the performance of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” performed this year by Jennifer Poroye ‘23 (General Music), and awards of merit for graduating seniors.  

“As we leave SUNY New Paltz, I ask that you remember the things your community has done for you as well,” said Jayln Cox-Cooper ‘23 (Sociology), the First World Class of 2023 Valedictorian. “We are here to uplift you and bring you to success. The people who see you will connect with you.”  

About First World New Paltz
First World New Paltz’s history is intertwined with that of the University. Its roots can be traced to the diversity movement that began on campus in the 1960s and led to the creation of vital institutions such as  Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the  Scholars Mentorship Program(SMP). EOP first held its own graduation ceremony in 1973, and that annual event was later expanded and renamed to include general admission students. 

Today, First World New Paltz stands not only as a unique Commencement-weekend event but as an association of University alumni of color, whose activities include the maintenance of a robust professional network.