Years before Andrew Bernucca would be selected as the student speaker at AIC’s 2019 Commencement, he was like many high school students wondering where he would go to college. While he found different schools to be appealing for one reason or another, he was certain of only two things: his decision would be based on a college that valued small classes and fostered a close knit community. “I didn’t want to be just a number. When I visited American International College, the admissions office tour guide stressed that this would not be the case at AIC. He guaranteed that everyone on campus, including professors, staff, and even the president, would know your name.” Upon his acceptance at AIC and his arrival on campus, Bernucca quickly learned that the tour guide’s words were, indeed, fact.
Majoring in Communications, Bernucca balanced his studies with various campus activities. Things were going well for Bernucca at AIC but he would learn a lesson about loss that was not taught in one of his classes. After an extended illness, his mother, Delfina, passed away during the summer before his sophomore year. Her death triggered a wakeup call in Bernucca that would change the trajectory of his own life. “When I was in high school, I didn’t have the best grades and it weighed on my relationship with my parents. I want to be the person that my mother always knew I could be. I want to live up to the potential she saw in me.”
While it was his mother’s passing that focused Bernucca’s sense of self and spurred him on to being a better man, it was sheer coincidence during his junior year at AIC that would put him on a career path that he had considered but not fully acted upon.
Congressman Richard Neal ’72, Hon ’90, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, visited the AIC campus to participate in a photoshoot. Bernucca was aware of the Congressman’s reelection campaign approaching, and always held an interest in politics. “I grew up in a household where my parents were informed, and I saw the opportunity to introduce myself to Neal,” Bernucca said. On the day of the photoshoot, Bernucca approached Congressman Neal, introduced himself and let him know of his desire to work for Neal’s campaign. “I know you’re up for reelection and have a primary challenger. If there are any internship opportunities on your campaign I’d like to be involved,” Bernucca recalls saying to the Congressman. Three weeks later, he was invited to join the campaign.
Initially, Bernucca was tasked with tracking media coverage on the Congressman’s opponents, their own campaign, debate preparation, and voter canvassing. A standard role for an intern. However, his work was recognized quickly and by August he accepted a promotion to join the campaign full-time as a field organizer. The aspect of his job quickly changed, as he was now recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers to help with reelection efforts, working with the media and assisting in debates. “It was a great experience,” Bernucca said. “My father said that I necessarily didn’t know what I was getting myself into and I just went for it, eventually leading to other opportunities. I ended up falling in love with politics, and it’s something I want to pursue after graduation.”
Fast forward to May 11, 2019 and American International College’s 134th Commencement. Gazing across a vast audience at the Mass Mutual Center consisting of classmates, mentors, professors, friends, family, and strangers, Bernucca stepped up to the podium as the 2019 student speaker. As he looked upon the crowd, he reiterated a lesson that his father taught him as a child: “Adversity introduces a man to himself.” Speaking of how he would heal from the passing of his late mother, Bernucca remembered how he was able to recover from the loss, as well as learn from it.
“I was scared to meet myself at this time in my life, many of us were,” Bernucca said to the audience, many of whom were his peers. “But AIC was not. That is what separates this college from others. American International College consistently believes in its students, regardless of the problems they face or the road they seem to be going down at any given moment. AIC steps forward and offers its students not only the resources they need, but the community they need as well.”
By Justin Lewis ’17, MBA ’19 :: Photos by Leon Nguyen ’16