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Worcester Attorney AiVi Nguyen Delivers Powerful Message to QCC Graduates on Rising from Extreme Poverty to Youngest Partner in Law Firm

Contact: Karen Hutner
Office of Institutional Communications
khutner [at]

WORCESTER, MA—May 23, 2019—Breaking the bonds of poverty through education was the message Quinsigamond Community College’s keynote speaker Worcester Attorney AiVi Nguyen delivered to the college’s 1,543 graduates at its 2019 Commencement ceremony, held at the DCU Center in Worcester on May 23, 2019. Ms. Nguyen is a partner at Bowitch, a Worcester-based law firm. She became the youngest partner in the firm’s history in 2016 at the age of 31.  Ms. Nguyen is the only child of Vietnamese refugees who came to the US without being able to speak English and with no money, no education, and no transferable job skills.

QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja can personally relate to the trials Ms. Nguyen faced. He emigrated from Cuba as a young boy and grew up in a low-income Miami neighborhood. He was the first in his family to attend college; later earning his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He attributes education as a way to achieve equity, and considers it is a basic human right that helps break the bonds of poverty.

“AiVi has dedicated her life to helping others get access to opportunities to help them break the cycle of poverty.  She is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Central Massachusetts and the Vice Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee for the City of Worcester.  From 2010 until 2016, she was a Trustee of Quinsigamond Community College,” said Dr. Pedraja.

“I grew up on Millbury Street, Great Brook Valley, and Upland Gardens in Worcester - in extreme poverty.  My parents were day laborers and made very little money.  I grew up on welfare, Section 8, free breakfast and lunch at school. We were surrounded by drugs and gang violence for much of my childhood.  My parents always pushed me to do well in school, even though they could not help me.  They taught me that for people like us, the only avenue out of poverty was education - and that I was lucky to even be given the avenue,” Ms. Nguyen said.

She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her juris doctorate from Boston College Law School.

“The only reason I am where I am today, a partner at a prestigious law firm and looked to as a leader in the community, is because I am educated.  I did not inherit a company, or money, or social status.  Had I not pursued an education, the cycle of poverty for my family would not have ended,” she said.

At the commencement ceremony, the college’s annual Trustees’ Citizen’s Award was awarded in absentia to former Trustee, Dr. Matilde Castiel. Dr. Castiel is the Commissioner of Health and Human Services for the City of Worcester and was the founder, Executive Director and Medical Director of the Latin American Health Alliance, a collaboration of diverse community groups dedicated to combating homelessness and drug addiction. She is also the founder of the Hector Reyes House and Casa Reyes, a substance abuse treatment facility and transitional house for Hispanic males in Worcester. Additionally, Dr. Castiel opened Café Reyes, an innovative jobs training program in partnership with QCC, in which residents at Hector Reyes House and Casa Reyes run a Shrewsbury Street restaurant.

“We are happy to recognize Dr. Castiel’s exceptional impact on Quinsigamond Community College, her dedication to our community and her five years of service as a trustee,” said QCC Chair of the Board of Trustee Susan Mailman.

Student greetings were given by QCC Student Government Association President Stephanie Teixeira, who told her classmates that even as the doors close on their time at QCC, other exciting doors and opportunities will open.

“We have now become the conduit to our own success. The possibilities are endless and we have the tools we need to prosper,” she said.

A total of 1,141 degrees and 562 certificates were conferred upon this year’s graduates.

“Enjoy the celebration, the pride in the smiles of your friends and family, and the feeling of accomplishment, but never stop learning.  You are our ambassadors to the world.  It does not escape me that we are sending you out into a world dominated by divisive discourse, inequality, and filled with uncertainty and challenges but I know that you are up to the challenge,” Dr. Pedraja said.  “Continue to believe in yourself and believe in your dreams; be brave and courageous and do not let anyone dissuade you from pursuing your dreams and attaining your goals.  Dare to dream and dream big.”

For more information about QCC, contact Josh Martin, Director of Institutional Communications at 508.854.7513 or jmartin [at]

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Quinsigamond Community College is the most affordable higher education in Worcester County. As a regional leader in education and workforce development, QCC serves the diverse educational needs of Central Massachusetts by providing affordable, accessible, and high quality programming leading to transfer, career, and lifelong learning.