This year’s graduates will walk at three commencement ceremonies on April 22
Miami, April 19, 2023 – Demonstrating that hard work and determination leads to success, nearly 12,000 Miami Dade College (MDC) students will earn degrees this month at three commencement ceremonies on Saturday, April 22, at loanDepot park, home of the Miami Marlins.
Ceremonies will take place at 8:30 a.m. (North, Hialeah and West campuses), 1:30 p.m. (Wolfson, Medical and Homestead, campuses) and 6:30 p.m. (Kendall and Padron campuses). Ceremonies will also be livestreamed at www.mdc.edu/livestream.
MDC’s Class of 2023 represent 107 nationalities and speak more than 50 languages. Many are already making significant contributions in their communities and blazing trails in their respective fields, including technology, business, nursing, education and more.
Meet some of this year’s stellar graduates:
Kiara Ibanez aspires to become a child psychologist. She realized nothing made her happier than helping and interacting with children at her mother’s daycare, where she spent much of her time growing up. Now she is graduating with an associate degree and headed to the prestigious Brown University to study psychology. Inspired by her mother, her role model, the Hialeah native and daughter of Peruvian immigrants worked hard to complete high school and college simultaneously as part of the dual enrollment program, which helped her get ahead in her studies. The talented graduate also plays the piano, draws and crochets.
Sylus Miller’s passion for helping animals started as a child, caring for six turtles. As he fed, cleaned and learned more about the reptiles, he realized veterinary medicine was his calling. Since then, he has been diligently striving toward his ultimate goal – working as a veterinarian at a zoo or non-government organization to revitalize endangered species. Miller, whose family roots are American and Bahamian, excelled at MDC, where he was the recipient of various awards and recognitions, including being named to the 2023 All-Florida Academic Team in recognition of his outstanding academic achievement, leadership and service to the community in 2022. After graduation, he plans to attend the University of Florida, majoring in biology with a track in pre-veterinary medicine.
Business administration major Daniel Cotes is the first in his family to earn a college degree in the U.S. The Colombian native, who is also a U.S. Navy veteran, will graduate with an impressive 3.9 GPA and a well-rounded college experience at MDC. He was on the dean’s list, a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) member and an MDC Hall of Fame Scholarship recipient. In the future, he hopes to work in supply chain management or similar capacity within the federal government. He is considering continuing his education at Florida International University, the University of Miami or the University of South Florida.
Twin sisters Rachel and Michelle Perez Luna, daughters of Mexican immigrants, are the first in their family to earn a college degree, setting the example for three younger siblings. Born in Homestead, the sisters attended different high schools and reunited at MDC. After graduation, they will part ways again to chase their respective dreams. Rachel is working toward her registered nurse license; Michelle, who studied criminal justice, wants to become a police officer. The sisters received several scholarships at MDC, including the College Assistant Migrant Program Scholarship. Rachel plans to continue her nursing studies at MDC. Michelle will move on to Florida International University to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Mother and daughter Luisy Martinez Barrera and Andrea Barrera will make that momentous walk across the stage on graduation day…again. The first time was in 2019, when they earned associate degrees together. This time they will receive bachelor’s degrees in supervision and management with a concentration in human resources. This is just one of many things the Barreras have in common. They also both work at MDC and are on the Dean’s List, members of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). They also share a great love of reading. Luisy plans to transfer to Florida International University to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership. Andrea will remain at MDC for a second bachelor’s degree in film, television and digital production.
At just 16, Dorsa Sarab is graduating from MDC with an Associate in Arts. The dual enrollment student, who is an Iranian American, was always ahead of the game, starting first grade early and taking college courses by age 14. She credits her academic success to dedication, perseverance, and time management, a skill she mastered while being homeschooled. While at MDC, she was awarded the University of Miami’s President’s Merit and Bright Futures scholarships. She was also involved in Student Government Association, where she chaired the Inclusion Committee; PTK, Model United Nations, Diverse Student Organization, HOSA Future Health Professionals and participated in the MDC STEM internship program. Wherever the future takes her, she wants to be an agent for change, helping to eliminate exclusion, isolation and discrimination through advocacy and education.
Cleveland Clinic student Akeila Hardy did not allow challenges to limit her future. Initially, she struggled to find her way in college. When she was finally on track, and expecting her first child, her fiancé passed away. MDC faculty and staff stepped in to offer the support she needed to stay in school. Her teachers rallied around her and introduced her to Mission North Star Young Parent Program, a collegewide initiative that provides wraparound services for young parents. Mission North Star had such an impact on her that today she is a program ambassador and has completed 64 hours of service, helping other young parents stay in school. On graduation day, she will proudly walk to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Personal challenges also fueled and inspired dental hygiene student Vanessa Santos to go after her dreams. Before getting her life on track, Vanessa battled addiction, which almost took her life twice. Now sober for more than five years, she is fully invested in her career, which has become her life’s passion. At MDC, she provided free dental care at various community events and was accepted into the Dental Hygiene Honors program. After graduating from the dental hygiene program, her goal is to continue serving the community and educating others on proper oral health care. In addition, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in education and a career in the dental field.
Pre-Medical Technology student Arnoudly Bossicot came to MDC as part of the inaugural class of Rising Scholars. The program, which covers tuition and fees for the first two years of college, gave her the opportunity to pursue a STEM career without worrying about incurring debt. She emigrated from Haiti with her parents and nine siblings. Her parents’ determination to provide for the family despite a language barrier always inspired her. She began writing as a hobby, which eventually led her to successfully publish four romance novels. She is now working on a book titled “For the Curvy.” Arnoudly is a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. She plans to continue her studies in biology and/or biotechnology at either the University of Central Florida or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
Dariel Rodriguez immigrated from Cuba alone in 2019 seeking freedom and the opportunity to achieve a college education. He was 17 at the time, his mother and father joining him two years later. He earned a high school diploma and utilized YouTube to learn English. At MDC, the business administration major took full advantage of all the opportunities that came his way, now graduating with a sustained 4.0 GPA. He was involved in the Campus Vote Project, Phi Beta Lambda, where he was vice president, and a Student Ambassador for the Honors College. He was also on the Dean’s List and the recipient of the American Dreams Scholarship and the National Supermarket Association Scholarship, among other accolades. Dariel plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance and eventually own a firm that educates the community on managing and investing finances to build generational wealth.
Carlen Arevalo left her native El Salvador to escape gang violence, leaving her father behind, not knowing if she would ever see him again. In the U.S., she worried and struggled to learn the language, but decided to turn challenges into opportunities, building a path of academic excellence that has transformed her into one of the most accomplished students of MDC’s Class of 2023. Most recently, she was named to the 2023 All-USA Academic Team and has been selected as a Jack Kent Cooke scholarship finalist. At MDC she served as Scholarship and Leadership vice president for her PTK campus chapter, co-founded the Honors in Action project Let’s P.L.A.Y. (Purpose, Learn, Apply, Young-at Heart), and was president of the Meriyaki Youth community service club. She plans to transfer to Columbia University or Babson College to study business administration and marketing.
First-generation college student and psychology major Diego Faria says MDC was the perfect place to propel himself and reach new heights. The Honors College allowed the Venezuelan native to leverage his talents to become the best version of himself. Diego was selected as a Newman Civic Fellowship Finalist, a 2022 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise winner, nominated to the 2023 All-USA Academic Team and named to the 2023 All-Florida Academic Team. In addition to excelling academically, he dedicated time to volunteer work and community service, notably as a campus peer listener. He aspires to become an industrial/organizational psychologist specializing in public and higher education sectors as productivity-driven workplaces. He has applied to several schools, including Princeton, Yale and Georgetown University.
Chemical engineering major Maria Bravo enrolled at MDC in the fall of 2022, not long after arriving from Venezuela. She earned a GED and started college feeling insecure because of the language barrier. She encountered many mentors along the way, such as Professor Jo Nell Aarons, who gave her support and much needed confidence to succeed. In the end, she went above and beyond her expectations. She earned the Academic Excellence Award and the American Dream Scholarship. She also worked as the secretary of the Pre-Health Student Organization, was a member of Venezuelan Student Society and the American Dream Scholars Club. Bravo plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and work in the research sector. She would also like to eventually earn a master’s in analytical chemistry with the goal of teaching at the college level.
Isabella Espinosa, an international relations major, is a School of Advanced Studies student who will obtain an associate degree prior to her high school graduation. At MDC she received the MDC West Outstanding Student Award and was prolific in her community involvement, accumulating 119 service hours. She also participated in several student organizations, including Model United Nations and Rho Kappa. She was involved in the National Honor Society, the National English Honor Society, PTK, Student Government Association, the Go Green Club and was the editor of her campus’ literary magazine. Espinosa has applied to Cornell University and hopes to one day become a judge like her role model – Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Computer science major Christine Lumen, an avid traveler who has lived in different countries, researched the best data analytics program in the country and settled on MDC, which was highly recommended for its hands-on learning approach. With no prior knowledge in the field, she took a leap of faith and is now graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Born in Estonia, Lumen is a first-generation college graduate. She was a member of PTK and The National Society of Leadership and Success. Lumen also volunteered as a tutor at Khan Academy. This summer, she will participate in a research program about agroforestry as a Natural Climate Solution at Yale University, and in the fall, continue her studies at New York University. Her ultimate career goal is to become a business data analyst and use her skills to help companies make meaningful decisions that support their growth and development.
Wanda Melendez left early retirement and moved from Vero Beach to Miami to pursue her education at MDC, where she first obtained an associate degree and had a wonderful experience. Now she will receive a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in hospitality. Returning to school after more than 40 years was a challenge for Melendez, who at first struggled with math and technology classes,but she drew inspiration from her mother, who in her mid-60s embarked on a brand-new career as a cosmetologist. Melendez complemented her studies with community work for the nonprofit Helping Hand for Relief and Development. Her goal is to work as a supervisor or manager at a hotel in Miami or Chicago, where she was raised.