University Alum – a Former Offensive Tackle for the New York Giants and Jets – Presses New Students to Tap into Their Inner Strength

New students welcomed to William Paterson family

Kareem McKenzie, MEd ’16

The power of choice.

Students new to William Paterson University now possess that power and the ability to apply it in an infinite number of ways: whether by choosing courses, clubs to join or campus activities to attend.

University leaders and special guests reminded more than 1,000 new first-year students of that power – and the success that can come of using it wisely – during the kickoff event of New Student Welcome Day on August 31.

“A negative mindset is like having a flat tire,” said Kareem McKenzie, MEd ’16, to a sea of wide-eyed listeners in the Rec Center. “It’s hard to get to where you want to go if you don’t change it.”

McKenzie, who spent 11 years in the NFL as an offensive tackle on the New York Jets and then Giants, decided to turn the end of his football career into an opportunity to try something new. Desiring a career that would allow him to help former athletes and military members cope with similar life changes, McKenzie pursued a master’s degree in professional counseling at William Paterson. He graduated in May 2016 with a 3.8 GPA.

“You have the power of choice,” he announced. “Doing nothing is a choice … choose to be greater; choose to be good; choose to go to class.”

Special guest Raul Magdaleno, a U.S. Congressional Award Gold Medal recipient who specializes in educational empowerment, had a similar message for the new students.

Magdaleno’s brothers ended up in prison and, during his college years, he lived in a homeless shelter with his disabled sister. But, he did not let adversity define him. “I’m not going to let you write my story,” he said. “Give me my pen back.”

Judging him by his circumstances, Magdaleno says, people frequently “buried” him. “What they didn’t realize is they were burying a seed that would grow and blossom,” he added, earning cheers from the crowd. “I’m about to grow, baby,” Magdaleno yelled in response, as the cheering swelled. “Go ahead and try to bury me and watch me grow!”

Nearly 1,400 freshmen and 1,200 new transfer students enrolled at William Paterson for this fall semester, according to University President Kathleen Waldron.

“Get off to a good start here,” she urged the students, pressing them to study hard, join campus clubs and volunteer groups, get to know their professors, and get to know their classmates.

“Embrace the diversity of William Paterson,” Waldron said.

Provost Warren Sandmann similarly encouraged the University’s newest members. “Commit to each other,” he urged. “These are your classmates,” he continued, motioning around the crowded gymnasium. “These are the people who are going to support you, be your friends for the next four years and beyond, be your colleagues as you move into the professional world … This is your family.”

Click here for more photos from New Student Welcome Day.