HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Community College will hold its 76th commencement at the MassMutual Center on Saturday.

Joseph Bruseo, a professor of biology and the recipient of the 2023 Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence Award, will lead the procession of graduates and will give the keynote address at the 76th Commencement of Holyoke Community College (HCC) on Saturday, according to a news release from HCC.

Environmental Science major Henry Zucco of Holyoke will be the student orator at the ceremony. Latinx Studies major Mishie Serrano of Westfield will deliver a spoken word performance of original poetry. Veterinary and Animal Science / Veterinary Technician major Kelandra Hurd of Amherst, the Student Senate president, will present the class gift, and Liberal Arts major Luis Pinto-Jimenez of Holyoke will offer a recognition of student ornamentation at the commencement.

HCC will give associate degrees and certificates to around 700 graduates on Saturday. HCC will also honor two area residents with Distinguished Service Awards, Mariah Levine of South Hadley, the director of Preschool at the Holyoke YMCA, and Jason Pacheco of Ludlow, the manager of Workforce Planning and Compensation for Baystate Health.

This will also be President Christina Royal’s last commencement with the school, as she is retiring at the end of the academic year. Royal began her career in January 2017 as the first woman, first openly gay, and first bi-racial person to serve as HCC president.

Among the graduates will be West Springfield’s Luis and Lisette Antonmarchi, a married couple that escaped poverty in the Bronx and sought a better life for themselves and their three children in Holyoke. On Saturday, they will walk across the Commencement stage together to collect their associate degrees after five years of part-time studies.

Luis, who is a 55-year-old sociology major, will graduate with honors, and Lisette, a liberal arts major, with high honors. 

Over the years, even as they both had satisfying careers, they talked about going to college, but could never seem to find the right time to go. In 2018, as their children were finishing high school, they finally decided to act on that dream.   

“It was really just a personal goal,” says Lisette. “We were always stressing to our kids, you have to go to college so you won’t struggle as much as we did. We’re always setting goals for ourselves, so we’re not complacent about where we’re at. A degree was just one of those things we hadn’t done yet.”

After HCC, they want to continue their studies at UMass through the University Without Walls program. Lisette plans to complete a bachelor’s degree in instructional design, and Luis a bachelor’s in social justice.  

“We hope that with this graduation and continuing our education that we can continue to be an inspiration for our family,” says Luis. “I hope that our grandchildren, when they see us walk at Commencement, that that becomes a moment they’ll always remember and a motivation for them too as they begin their educational journeys.”

Also among the graduates is James K. Bradford, a 69-year-old U.S. Army veteran, who prepares to graduate from the institution for the second time, exactly 50 years after his initial graduation in the spring of 1973. Bradford’s remarkable achievement is breaking records at HCC, as he becomes the only alumnus to return for another degree after a full five-decade gap.

The commencement ceremony at HCC begins at 10:00 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.