Congratulations, HFC Class of 2024!

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Side-by-side images of the two commencement speakers. Left: Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos. Right:Assad Turfe.

May 4 was a fun, jubilant, and memorable day for the HFC community as approximately 530 students walked across the stage to get their diplomas, officially graduating from the College and becoming alumni.

HFC President Russ Kavalhuna told the graduates how proud he, along with the HFC faculty and staff, is of their accomplishments.

“What I want you to think about is how you feel right now in this extraordinary moment and why it’s so powerful for you to remember it as you move forward,” he said. “Think about where you’ve come with the people who supported you. They’re here because they’re so proud of you.”

“Earning a degree makes you special,” he continued. “That has immense value. It will make you a better teammate, a better employee, a better community member. I know that because I and everyone else on this stage has devoted their lives to that idea. So please enjoy those emotions that you have today because they recognize and represent what you’ve come through.”

Watch HFC’s commencement ceremonies and speeches

The two commencement ceremonies – the first in the morning, the second in the afternoon – were held at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Watch the morning ceremony here

Watch Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos' morning remarks [8 minutes]

Watch the afternoon ceremony here

Watch Assad Turfe's Afternoon Remarks [9 minutes]

“Commencement is the most exciting event at HFC. Our students accomplish so much while they are on our campus and commencement is a celebration of their learning, their dedication, and their achievements. This is one short, cherished day when we faculty can just sit in awe and appreciation of our students,” said HFC Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Michael Hill.

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

HFC alumnus Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos was the morning commencement speaker. Kavalhuna presented Castellanos with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“Many of us are here because we took the road less traveled. As community college students, many of us took journeys that were anything but linear. We had to get creative and forge a new path for ourselves,” explained Castellanos. “Maybe you had to work on the side, take care of your family, or even your own children. Perhaps you are the first one in your family to navigate higher education. Maybe you could not attend a 4-year university because you simply did not have the resources to do so. Or maybe you had to delay your education due to physical and mental health challenges. In my case, it was my lack of proficiency in English that prevented me from attending a 4-year university after high school. I enrolled at HFC, not knowing I would find a community of caring individuals who welcomed me when I needed it the most. I realized I wasted so much time trying to catch up to other people’s idea of what I thought a successful college student was supposed to look like. We can only find a fulfilling life and career when we embrace our own path and go at our own pace.”

Castellanos has won the internationally prestigious Rhodes Sholarship and will attend the University of Oxford in England for the 2024-25 academic year. He has the distinction of being the first-ever Rhodes Scholar to have attended HFC before transferring. After studying liberal arts at HFC, he earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations with minors in critical translation studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies. At Oxford, Castellanos will pursue two master’s degrees: refugee studies and Latin American studies.

“We all share this moment because we did not give up on our education and we did not give up on ourselves,” said Castellanos. “I hope you realize how valuable this journey is. You are all exceptional in the fact that our journeys are so out of the norm. Before HFC, I had never been part of such a diverse, intellectual community."

He continued: “And despite our differences, I remember we all cherished our education so much precisely because we had struggled so much to get it, and we vowed to never take it for granted. This celebration is the culmination of your own path-breaking journey and the beginning of a new one. I can promise you: the more you lean into what makes you so different and unique, the further you will go. You are already making space for future students who are similarly situated.”

Distinguished Service Award recipient

HFC alumnus and Deputy Wayne County Executive Assad Turfe served as the afternoon commencement speaker. Kavalhuna presented Turfe with the Distinguished Service Award.

“I am honored to receive such recognition from HFC where my journey began. Like a lot of you, my path here wasn’t the most direct. I know from my experience that the hardest path is often the most meaningful,” said Turfe.

Turfe’s career in Wayne County began in 2002 as a deputy in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. The Dearborn native rose swiftly through the ranks, eventually becoming one of the youngest lieutenants in the department’s history.

While he was climbing the ladder in Wayne County, he ran into a barrier because he didn’t have a college degree even though he had completed some coursework at HFC. So Turfe returned to HFC, took more classes and applied his credits to transfer to Concordia University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in in public policy in 2020. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to don his cap and gown and walk across the stage. Attending this year’s HFC commencement was a special day for him as well as the graduates, as it was the first time he had worn college commencement regalia.

Turfe is always heartened to see HFC listed on a résumé because it signals a powerful story behind each candidate, speaking to their unique and profound experiences.

“Let me explain what that means to me: HFC provided both you and me with an opportunity. Brilliance is evenly spread among all walks of life, but opportunity isn’t,” said Turfe. “Each of you has shown incredible resilience and determination on your unique journey. This graduation ceremony means more to you and everyone here than to someone who didn’t face these challenges. Your life experience has earned you a degree in resilience and overcoming challenges.”

Graduates: We are here for you in the long run

HFC will always be there to help you in any way possible. Reach out to us as you take the next step in your life:

Congratulations on your graduation, a major milestone in your life. We wish you the best wherever your path may take you!