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Alyssa Silva ’20 gets a commencement surprise while serving her country during COVID-19

When Alyssa Silva enlisted in the New Jersey National Guard in March 2018, she took an oath to protect and serve her country above all else. That promise came with the understanding that there would be personal sacrifices — including potentially missing her college graduation.

But this is a happy story.

Silva ’20, a specialist under the Joint Task Force 57th Troop Command, has been stationed at Kean University’s COVID-19 testing center in Union, NJ where she provides security at traffic control points. When she isn’t helping others, Silva made sure to help herself. In addition to her work with the National Guard, she completed her undergraduate degree in history and officially became a TCNJ alumna.

“Although I am on state active duty, my education is just as much a priority to me,” Silva says. “Serving the public and the state of New Jersey, as well as my country, has been my passion since the day I took my oath of enlistment into the Army. When I was asked if I would like to volunteer for this particular mission, without hesitation I immediately said ‘yes’ as it allowed me to give back to my community.”

Her work schedule meant that missing her commencement ceremony, which itself was altered because of the global health emergency, was a real possibility. But those around here couldn’t let that happen.

Given time to watch TCNJ’s virtual commencement celebration on her laptop in a private room, Silva was called to a meeting just as the festivities began. When she entered the room, she stepped directly into a party set up by her coworkers and friends, leadership team, and volunteers at the testing center to celebrate her special moment.

“Through my career at the college, I have learned that the most growth and improvement comes from one’s own mistakes and learned lessons,” says Silva. “My time at TCNJ will always put a smile on my face and be one of the driving forces to accomplish the goals I have set for myself.” 

Silva plans to continue into the United States Army as a commissioned officer.

“For months, I had dreamed about graduating from TCNJ and was upset I would not have the graduation I dreamed of since I was young. But it turned out even better.”

— David Pavlak

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