NUMBER OF GRADUATES
406 associate degrees; 279 bachelor's
George Santiago Jr., fourth president in the school's 46-year history, acknowledged students are leaving college at a tough time, with an economy marred by bankruptcies, foreclosures and layoffs. "In this environment, Briarcliffe College becomes even more relevant preparing you, our graduates, to be more competitive in the marketplace."
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice urged graduates toward a life of public service. "You are no longer the future. You are the present and we need you now. The call to public service has never been so urgent . . . The world needs leaders right now -- not tomorrow, but today."
Salutatorian Suzanne Caldeira, who earned her associate degree in business administration, told the class: "It all comes down to passion . . . Hold on to your passion, your dreams and determination."
Valedictorian Cherie Bottcher: "Life is full of struggles and obstacles . . . Do not be afraid to ask for help and be humble enough to use it."
Melanie Urena, 19, associate's in criminal justice
"There was a lot of time and a lot of money put into it . . . I'm just ready to go on with the future," said Urena, who plans to pursue a career in police work.
Jeffrey Allen, 54, associate's in business administration
"Motivation is the key. You've got to really want to do it . . . I always wanted to go to college," said Allen, who plans to use his degree to open a massage therapy business with his daughter.
Nareg Haviters, 24, bachelor's in marketing
Haviters said the economy might be rough but he feels confident about his future. "I'm an optimist, and I know given an opportunity -- even a small one -- I can make the most of it." He plans on doing an internship before getting his master's.
Tony Bracco, 23, bachelor's in graphic design
"I worked very hard in school, and I'm going to keep doing that out of school," said Bracco, who played baseball at Briarcliffe and graduated with honors. He wants to land an internship and build a portfolio.