Alumni of Color Dinner Celebration Honors Graduating Students
On Thursday, April 19, 80 guests gathered for the Alumni of Color Dinner Celebration, hosted annually by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs and the Office of Alumni and Development.
The dinner is a beloved tradition at St. John Fisher College, and honors graduating students of color. Students, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni were among the attendees. As part of the celebration, the soon-to-be graduates have a chance to network with alumni and friends of the College, and they also receive a ceremonial stole that they are encouraged to wear during Commencement.
This year’s keynote speaker was Nicole VanGorder-Pratt ’11, Chief Talent Officer/Financial Services Professional, Financial Architects MassMutual in Rochester. The theme of her address focused on how the graduates will face judgment by others at some point due to their age, looks, skin color, dress, values, or gender. But, she reassured the graduating students in the room that they will make it far in life if they put the time and energy into making real connections.
A native of Buffalo, VanGorder-Pratt was raised in Niagara Falls and moved to North Tonawanda as a teen after her mother remarried. While growing up, she faced much adversity. Aside from being racially different from her peers, she was raised by a single mother who struggled financially for years to send her to a Catholic school and put food on the table. VanGorder-Pratt herself began working at a very young age to support her mother and found it difficult to deal with her father, who was a drug and alcohol abuser.
After graduating from North Tonawanda High School in 2007, she was accepted into Fisher, where she majored in Political Science and Sociology in hopes of pursuing her dream to become a defense attorney. She soon realized that this career path was not for her. Rather than becoming part of a revolving door system, she wanted to be part of the solution instead.
At Fisher, VanGorder-Pratt found a real passion for giving back to the community and was involved at various levels of service on campus. She served as a Resident Assistant and leader with the Student Government Association.
Today, she is an active advocate for mental health reform and education. In addition, she is currently a member of the College’s Alumni Board of Directors, is involved with the Al Sigl Walk About Committee and the Greater Works Charter School Founding Board, and is a proud mentor for a young adult at St. Joseph’s Villa. She is also the youngest and only female minority to work in a management-level position in a Rochester finance firm at age 22.
Mei Chen, John Au, Uwa Oduwa, Dario Arango, Josue Cornier, and Chantal Phillips.
Antoinette Poole and Mei Chen.
Soon-to-be graduates! From L to R, front row: Luisa Sotto, Josue Cornier, Mei Chen, Tanya Gonzalez, Uwa Oduwa, Dario Arango, Antaeus Turnscraft-Ash, Latasha Hill, Antoinette Poole, Jazmin Hayes, Shannae King, Chantal Phillips. From L to R, back row: John Au, Yamiled Ortiz- Lopez, Christopher Rush, Krystal Kinder, Sylvia Gonzalez, Angie Rivera, FoQuan Borum.