Not every college student can say they’ve had three graduation ceremonies. But Jerich Alcantara, a now-alumnus of the Hunter College School of Nursing, can add that to his list of accomplishments after Thursday.
Alcantara’s saga began last week, when an E train breakdown caused him to miss his school’s commencement. Instead of despairing, Alcantara got a real New York graduation, as his friends, family and other subway riders held an impromptu ceremony on the stalled train that quickly went viral.
And on Thursday morning, the 22-year-old East Elmhurst resident’s moment was made official, when Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and nursing school dean Gail McCain invited Alcantara to don the purple cap and gown once again.
The school was determined to ensure he wouldn’t miss this special ceremony too — they sent a car to pick up Alcantara so as not to leave anything to chance with the subway.
In the lobby of Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse, Alcantara shook hands with Raab as his friends and family looked on. Alcantara said they had held the ceremony on the train as a way to try and cheer everyone up, including himself.
“I feel like the graduation ceremony itself was more for my parents, because they’ve put me through so much just to see me graduate and get my degree, so having all of us miss that was really frustrating,” he said. “But at the same time, everything that’s happened so far really makes it worth it.”
Alcantara also received a $500 scholarship, which the school gave him to help with his upcoming nursing board exam.
Raab said that when she and other administrators saw the video of Alcantara’s subway commencement, which racked up more than 2 million views, they knew they had to invite him back and seal the deal.
“Today, Jerich, we give you what the MTA deprived you of,” Raab said.
On May 30, it took more than two hours before a rescue train came for the riders stranded underground in Queens. The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.
Once aboard the new train, Alcantara and his friend Bobby Rahman had an idea.
They pulled out a speaker and played Green Day’s “Good Riddance,” and Rahman handed Alcantara a mock diploma he had drawn on his phone as onlookers cheered.
When they finally arrived at Radio City Music Hall, the commencement ceremony was just coming to an end. But it wasn’t the end of Alcantara’s story.
“It really feels like a lot when you have the school and staff reach out to you themselves, especially after missing something as big as a graduation,” Alcantara said.
Raab admired how Alcantara and his friends turned a typical New York situation of dread into an amusing and uplifting moment for everyone.
“This is someone who’s going to have to think on his feet, he’s going to have to work with patients and be with them at the toughest times of their life,” she said. “What a great personality with creativity and humor; great characteristics in a nurse.”