The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy held its 80th commencement Saturday at its Kings Point campus.

Number of graduates

229 graduates received a bachelor of science, a Coast Guard license and an officer’s commission in the U.S. armed forces.

Commencement speaker

Air Force Gen. Darren McDew, of the U.S. Transportation Command, spoke of his own call to a life of service and congratulated the graduates on their success. “You have a lifetime of opportunities and challenges ahead of you and I have the greatest confidence in you because you are Kings Pointers and I envy you,” he said.

Student speaker

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Valedictorian Thomas Kloepfer, 22, of Amityville, told his classmates to reflect on their time at the academy and use the lessons they learned and bonds they formed to better the world. “Let us not meet the standards society sets for us, rather let us set the standards,” he said.

Class president

Benjamin Morris, 26, of Panama City, Florida, said though it has taken longer than he expected to finish school, he is proud to have found his path in life and urged his classmates to step outside their comfort zones. “I thought there was no way I was cut out for military school,” he said. “New things can be scary, but remember comfort zones are prisons and we only grow when we step out.”

Student reactions

Graduates celebrate during the eightieth commencement exercises of the United States Merchant Marine Academy held on their campus in Kings Point, Saturday, June 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Ethan Medler, 22, marine engineering systems

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“I always wanted to do something different with my life and I thought this was an interesting lifestyle to pursue,” said Meddler, of Houston.

JoEun Seo, 22, marine transportation

“My cousin was a marine engineer in Korea and I spoke English so my cousins said the Merchant Marine Academy was the best for marine education,” said Seo, of Busan, South Korea. “It was what I was looking for.”

Kelvin Henley, 22, marine engineering

“I was the first one in my city to get offered the chance to attend a service academy so I wanted to make history,” Henley, of Smithfield, Virginia, said. “It was definitely worth it.”

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Eric Izzo, 23, marine engineering

“I knew I wanted to sail since I was a young kid. It was just something I always wanted to do, to be a mariner,” said Izzo, of Cutchogue.