On Thursday, May 26th, 2023, the 30th annual class of graduates of the New Jersey Educational Facility Management Program gathered with their colleagues and loved ones to celebrate their commencement. The event, co-presented by the Rutgers Center for Government Services and the New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association, took place at the Professional Conference Center of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey, within a vibrant reception hall home to a customized congratulatory cake marking the unique occasion.
Senior Program Coordinator for the Center for Government Services, Lakea Nicholson greeted entrants as they arrived, along with Secretarial Assistant, Judy Alusik and Program Assistant, Maria Chigirovich. Nicholson then addressed the crowd first, offering a warm welcome and speaking of the great pride for their respective district evident in each of the graduates. Nicholson was the master of ceremonies throughout the evening, introducing two fellow speakers and reading the names of each graduate as they came up to accept their certificate of completion. Keith Gourley, Executive Director of the New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association, spoke next, discussing the remarkable and exponential growth of the program since the first graduating class. Gourley also spoke of the thorough training received by the graduates of the program, especially as compared to other programs in other states that he has observed, and the genuine certification that training yields.
President of the New Jersey School Buildings and Grounds Association, Rick Winter, addressed the graduates in a heartfelt speech in which he teased them to “run to the hills,” before imparting that the career was the “second most rewarding thing you can choose to do,” explaining that the role each graduate will play in their district is “much like the role played in a family.” To that end, Winter advised the collective class to, “Make it your mission to bring out the best in your team.” He assured all members of the 30th annual graduating class, “We are the foundation stones on which the rest of the district’s teams are built properly,” before finally reminding them that “heroes come in all shapes, sizes, skill sets, and walks of life.”
The proceedings wound down as Nicholson and Gourley honored Center for Government Services Program Assistant Maria Chigirovich with great praise and a framed certificate upon her pending retirement this summer after more than three decades of service to the Rutgers community. Chigirovich thanked the crowd and her coworkers in a humble display of how grateful she was for the gesture and the time spent in a beloved career. As the event closed, Nicholson gathered all graduates to pose for a massive group shot to the delight of friends and family before the collected celebrants made their way for the aforementioned cake.