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Governor Patrick, Campus Presidents Honor 29 Outstanding Public College & University Graduates in State House Ceremony May 12

05/12/2011

BOSTON, Mass. - Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland has announced that 29 outstanding 2011 graduates of Massachusetts community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts will be honored for both academic achievement and their contributions to the Commonwealth in a State House ceremony at 12 p.m. on Thursday, May 12.

Among those to be honored is Anita Parker '11 of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). Parker is majoring in biology with a concentration in pre-professional. She plans to continue her education after MCLA by pursuing both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in nursing, to eventually become a nurse practitioner.

"Anita Parker is an inspiration to many," said MCLA President Mary K. Grant. "She often is seen at North Adams Regional Hospital where she volunteers her time, or at a local nursing home where she lifts the spirits of our community's senior residents. On campus, she frequently can be found in a biology lab doing undergraduate research on sea anemones, or in the library as she tutors other students on a variety of subjects, including human anatomy, intro to biology and genetics. In addition to founding a new club to provide mentoring for other biology students, Anita also has shown exceptional civic engagement. Last year, she helped to organize a County-wide effort to raise money to benefit the American Cancer Society. And, as a student ambassador for MCLA's Office of Admissions, Anita represents the College well as she speaks to the next generation of MCLA students and shares with them the many opportunities available to them at the College. We are proud that Anita will represent MCLA in this year's '29 Who Shine.'"

This year, Parker founded a new club at MCLA called the "Bio Buddies."  This organization supports students who are majoring biology through mentoring, to ensure that they succeed. In addition, Parker encouraged club members to participate in an area walk for autism, to promote awareness and fundraising.

She also serves as the vice president of the "Colleges against Cancer Chapter" at MCLA, which hosted the "Relay for Life of Berkshire County All College" for the first time last year at the College. As a result, MCLA received the 2010 American Cancer Society Community Partner award for Berkshire County for its dedication to the Society and volunteer service in Massachusetts.

Adopted by her parents from Peru, Parker said, "Having come from a Third World country, I've experience what poverty is like and what it's like to live in a country with non-structured health care. My adoption and going to school have given me the opportunity to give back by helping to advance the awareness of the importance of necessities like clean water and vaccines. Hopefully with my career, I one day can go back and help the people of my country."

As a group, the student honorees range in age from 17 to 52. They hail from each of the state's 29 public higher education campuses, which are located in 25 cities and towns across Massachusetts. Each student was nominated for the "29 Who Shine" award by faculty and staff at the individual campuses.

"Each one of these student is a success story in her or his own right and as a group they remind us of the power of public higher education to change lives," said Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville. "Their achievements affirm the Patrick-Murray Administration's commitment to supporting and investing in our public colleges and universities."

Noting that Massachusetts public college and university graduates will form the bulk of the state's future workforce, Freeland said the students have already contributed to the state's civic well-being by serving their communities and preparing to work in high-need areas of the Massachusetts economy, such as the STEM fields.

"Individually and collectively, these students have proven themselves and shown that they will make significant contributions to our state's future," said Freeland. "They've studied hard to prepare for productive careers, but they've also made time to engage in the civic life of their communities, and Massachusetts is better off because of these efforts." 

In addition to the awards received at the May 12 ceremony, the students will be honored with donated full-page and half-page advertisements appearing on May 12 in most daily newspapers across the state.

"Every year UMass brings millions of research and development dollars into the state," said Jack Wilson, president of the University of Massachusetts. "This initiative to honor our graduates serves as another reminder to the citizens of Massachusetts that public higher education adds enormous value. For every dollar we spend on their education, high-achieving students pay us back with huge dividends."