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​​​“Knowledge is power. Knowledge is liberating. Education erases boundaries,” said noted civil rights activist and Rhode Island College’s 2019 Commencement speaker Ruby Bridges.

“I want you to remember that to whom much is given, much is required. That is not a cliché any more. As of today, that phrase will take on new meaning in your life,” said 2019 Rhode Island College Commencement speaker Ruby Bridges to more than 1,600 graduates on May 11 in the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Bridges, a civil rights activist, was the first to integrate her all-white elementary school in New Orleans while under the daily protection of federal marshals. She said she felt a bond with the graduates because many of them were also firsts in their families to receive a college degree. 

​​​  Joelle Reyes received her Community Health and Wellness bachelor's degree
“There are more ‘firsts’ waiting on the horizon for you,” she said. “You have been given an opportunity,  and with this opportunity comes choices. You could choose to simply live in this country or you could choose to serve and make it a better place.”

In his remarks, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed echoed Bridges’ sentiments. “The fight for equality is always worth fighting, and is right and just,” Reed said.

Bridges also emphasized that education has the power to bridge differences.

“Education has always connected us,” she said. “Education is what makes us all free to dream and to be whom and whatever we wish to be. Education is our threshold into a global society.”

She reminded them, “Never see your degree as another piece of paper, something to frame or hang on the wall. Because if you don’t know your value, you can’t expect someone else to calculate it you.”​

​​​ ​Kemi Ademilola received her bachelor's degree in Biology. 

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said RIC graduates are known for their valuable contributions in diverse fields across the state. 

​​“You have the determination, intelligence, grit, passion and conviction to be successful in whatever you decide to do,” she said. “This Rhode Island College diploma will unlock a lifetime of career opportunities.”

​​​ “Commencement is a day of new beginnings,” Rhode Island President Frank D. Sánchez told the graduates. 
Rhode Island College President Frank D. Sánchez noted that this year’s commencement is the first ceremony since 1993 to feature the awarding of both bachelor’s and advanced degrees. He said the event represented the beginning of the graduates’ promising futures.

“As you leave today with the title of graduate, you’re changing the course to live your best life fueled by the experiences and education you have gained at Rhode Island College, both inside the classroom and beyond,” Sánchez said. “Collectively, Class of 2019, you represent the power of tomorrow. You’re entering a world that greatly needs your expertise and passion.”

​​​ Luis Miranda Jr. accepted an honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree with his wife, Luz Towns-Miranda, at his side. 

For his passion and tireless advocacy for underrepresented communities, Luis Miranda Jr. received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities. In 2018 the Miranda family, through its charitable foundation, created the Miranda Family Scholarship at Rhode Island College to support students from underrepresented communities who are pursuing careers in the performing arts.
This year’s commencement also featured the awarding of the first four Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees to Jean Salera-Vieira, Ashlee Viveiros, Wendy Doremus and Joan Walsh. Launched in 2016, the DNP program is designed to prepare advanced practice nurses as leaders, clinical scholars and experts who will gain the knowledge and skills needed to improve health outcomes of individuals, systems and populations.