SUNY Empire State College held its 44th commencement Saturday at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of LIU Post in Brookville.

Number of graduates

348 total: 76 associate degrees, 264 bachelor’s degrees, 15 master’s degrees, 10 advanced graduate certificates

Student speakers

Stefanie Bruemmer, 44, of Miller Place, who graduated with a bachelor of science in business, management and economics, said she pursued her studies because “I realized that no matter how hard I worked, or additional skills that I acquired, I would always be held back without a college education.” Bruemmer received an associate degree from Empire State College last year and said she was promoted by her employer, Northwell Health Systems, after completing her bachelor’s degree studies. She also is a volunteer firefighter.

Christopher Tarello, 39, of Islip, who earned a bachelor of science in community and human services: “We have a responsibility to others. We see ourselves in them when they are stuck and [Empire State College] has provided us with the tools to help those in need.” Tarello is a certified alcoholism and substance abuse counselor. He also volunteers with autism groups.

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Student reactions

Jawana C. Richardson, 55, business studies and public policy:

“I wanted to get my associate’s degree for personal satisfaction and to keep pace with learning. I plan to pursue my bachelor’s degree,” said Richardson, a corporate finance worker from Hempstead Village.

David M. Weber, 47, business, management and economics:

“I’m going to study for my master’s degree at Hofstra [University] and hope to change careers. I want to help make employees happy in their jobs,” said Weber, a Sound Beach resident who works in air traffic information.

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Rodney J. Guevara, 36, community and human services:

“I enjoy helping people with disabilities, to make their lives easier,” said Guevara, of Roosevelt, who pursued his degree at the suggestion of his wife, an alumnus of SUNY Empire State College.

Mechell Medina, 46, business, management and economics:

“I want to have my own business someday; maybe a hotel with a spa and restaurant,” said Medina, a loan servicing administrator from Brentwood.