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58th Commencement Valedictorian and Salutatorian


Valedictorian Damien Niesewand

Valedictorian Damien Niesewand

Growing up in Minnesota, Damien Niesewand describes his time in high school as a long string of failures and personal crises. Struggling with undiagnosed ADHD and bipolar disorder, he hadn’t planned on attending college, believing it wasn’t for him. “I’d resigned myself to the idea that I’d spend the rest of my life working minimum wage,” he shared.

After barely graduating high school, he worked in childcare, received the mental health treatment he needed, and relocated to New York to be with his partner. He also decided he was ready to change his direction. “During the pandemic, I reflected on my life and realized I wanted and deserved more than to be a passive observer in it; I wanted to regain my passion.” That led him to applying to Kingsborough.

“Getting in at Kingsborough felt like the first step in a journey I’d been denying myself for years. I was terrified that my old fears of not belonging would be proven right, but I knew that I owed it to myself to try.”

There, he found supportive faculty and staff who were genuinely dedicated to helping him succeed — and succeed he did!

While at Kingsborough, he was chapter secretary of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society; vice president and secretary of the Media Club; and a member of the LGBTQ+ Alliance.

A powerful writer, Damien took second place in the 2022 CUNY League of Active Speech Professors (CLASP) Persuasive Speech Contest. As a Kibbee Library Civic Engagement Student Fellow, he is currently organizing a clothing drive for trans and gender-nonconforming youth living below the poverty line.

On the Dean’s List for three consecutive semesters, he was awarded the Dean’s List scholarship in fall 2022. Damien was also a Point Foundation Community College Scholar and the recipient of the Gladys Brooks Scholarship.

The liberal arts major graduates this June as an honor student with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and a future in psychology – all while working part-time as a nanny to two elementary-aged children.

Damien’s goal is to “make the world a little gentler for the next generation” by becoming a psychologist working with the LGBTQ+ community, particularly adolescents. “I wasted so many years thinking I would never amount to anything. I never want to feel that way again – and I never want anyone else to go through the same struggle that I did.” He is currently choosing between Brooklyn College and NYU as the next step in his education.

“My time at Kingsborough has been an intense and glorious study of the process of reinvention. I finally allow myself to dream about the future again, and I dream big: from a bachelor’s degree, to a doctorate, to my own clinical practice.”

He encourages current and future students to explore what Kingsborough has to offer. "CUNY has a reputation for being commuter schools without much of a sense of community. Don't buy into that. There is very much community here – and a lot of cool stuff to do. You just have to look for it."


Salutatorian Chouaib Fadili

Salutatorian Chouaib Fadili

Chouaib Fadili spoke no English when he moved to the United States in 2019. “In fact, English was one of the most terrifying parts of making the decision to move to this country,” he admitted. Meeting the challenge head-on, he enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) course and became fluent in a year and a half.

Wanting to attend college, but unsure of his newly acquired English skills, he was hesitant to apply. Luckily, a friend told him about the CUNY Language Immersion Program (aka C.L.I.P.), a low-cost, intensive, ESL program for incoming students who have been accepted to CUNY but need to improve their academic English skills before taking college courses. “The knowledge I gained from C.L.I.P. in terms of academic reading, writing, and speaking, truly helped take my English to the next level,” he shared.

Chouaib next set his sights on enrolling in college, choosing a major, and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average (GPA). Accepted into Kingsborough’s ASAP program, after some investigation, he decided to major in business administration. His first course was accounting, something he’d never studied before. Despite his lack of confidence, his diligent work — along with support and guidance from his professor, Dr. Amy Haas — resulted in an A+. “I really enjoyed earning that A+,” he admitted. “I really had fun working hard to succeed in this course.” That set the groundwork for the rest of his college career.

By the time he graduated in January 2023, he not only met his goal of earning a perfect 4.0 GPA, he was an honor student who had been named to the Dean’s List each semester. More importantly, he added, “I have formed relationships with inspiring and motivating people who are always willing to support me.” As a final accolade, Chouaib has been named salutatorian of the Class of 2023, and will deliver the keynote speech at the awards ceremony the night before commencement.

Chouaib is transferring to CUNY's Baruch College in the fall, where he will major in finance. In the interim, he is participating in Year-up, a training program that provides skills, experience, and support to  empower urban youth to reach their potential. The program consists of four months of training followed by a six-month corporate internship with a Fortune 500 company such as American Express, Citi, Google, Bloomberg, and JP Morgan Chase.

 “My journey at KCC was a wonderful experience in which I learned a lot, grew professionally, and got to meet great people. Kingsborough is not only a place of education; it is where my dream began.”