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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2003
CONTACT: Millie Gonzalez
Office of University Relations
(908) 737-NEWS
Email: news@kean.edu

Hispanic Student Receives Posthumous Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kean University

UNION, N.J – A former Kean University computer science major, Alexis Serrato of Elizabeth, N.J., will be receiving a posthumous Bachelor of Arts degree in computer science at the University’s 148th Undergraduate Commencement on Thursday, May 8, at the PNC Bank Arts Center, in Holmdel, N.J. Serrato lost his life in a tragic accident on October 21, 2002, when his bicycle was struck by a vehicle as he entered the University’s main campus early that morning. His parents, Cesar and Zenia, and his brothers Anthony and Cesar Abner Jr., will serve as honorary recipients of the diploma.

Alexis is the first member of his family to earn a college degree. "We are honored to be accepting his degree but greatly saddened that he will not be accorded it personally," said Mr. Serrato. "Being an honorary degree recipient for Alexis is the greatest compensation I could have received from the University," said Mrs. Serrato.

When he wasn’t studying, Alexis enjoyed bicycling and wanted to "travel the world on his bicycle," because of the freedom it granted, recalled Mr. Serrato. He spent hours at local parks, playing computer games and watching martial arts movies, like those of Jackie Chan. Serrato earned a brown-black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He attended church on Sundays and devoted all of his free time to reading his favorite book – the Bible.

"Alexis was simple and honest," said Mrs. Serrato. "He had a passionate character that was difficult to stifle, and his biggest virtue was his grand charisma." According to his family, he met every challenge with perseverance and possessed a spirit of gratitude for life. "Alexis was an excellent friend and a model individual for anyone who came in contact with him," said Ricardo Giraldo, fellow computer science major and programming tutor at Kean. "He demonstrated great integrity and was very devoted to his religion. An element of goodness was exemplified in all he did."

A necklace that holds Alexis’ picture hangs close to Mrs. Serrato’s heart serving as a reminder of her beloved child. "Sometimes when I’m alone in our living room Anthony, Alexis’ 2-year-old brother, sits on my lap and plays with the charm," she said. "He brings it to his lips and kisses it and then places it against mine so that I may do the same." The chain holds special meaning to Mrs. Serrato because she received it as a gift from a friend of Alexis’, whose mother has also experienced the pain of losing her child.

Mrs. Serrato shared a close relationship with her son. "Alexis was the battery that gave me force," she said. "I know that I need to be happy, the way he lived, and continue to use him as my source of energy." She recalled watching the evening news and seeing a soldier in the background giving the "thumbs up" signal to the camera. "My eyes flooded with tears," she said, still moved by the experience. "I remembered my Alexis, always making that gesture to assure me that everything was OK and I thought; ‘oh, my son is sending me a message’ and it gave me strength."