Nassau Community College held its 55th commencement at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Thursday night.
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4,175 graduates and graduate candidates for associate degrees and certificates.
NCC acting President Kenneth Saunders recognized the various paths that led to graduation day: "As differing as these routes may be that you go on after today, I predict that with persistence and passion, and skill, insight and creativity, you will also pave a common 'victory way.' "
Valedictorian Peter Branche, 21, of Seaford, said NCC is the real world. "Whenever you blame life or think you have it bad, you put your grievances into perspective when you realize just how difficult the person sitting next to you has it," he said.
Joshua Rivera, 27, education
"When I got that letter saying I was graduating, I cried. People always doubted me and this has been a long time coming," said Rivera, of Long Beach, an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. "Everything is falling into place for me right now."
Candace Lopez, 22, liberal arts
"I want to travel and teach English in other countries," said Lopez, of Farmingdale, who will go on to an accelerated bachelor's/master's degree program in applied linguistics at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. "We live in a global society -- you just never know who your neighbors will be."
Danielle DeSalvo, 19, science and mathematics
"I want to be a pharmacist. It seems like a secure field and I want to help people, but I don't want to be a doctor," said DeSalvo, of Bethpage. "I don't like blood or hospitals, so pharmacy it is."
Abdul-Malik Davies, 19, engineering
"I'm transferring to the University of Buffalo for chemical engineering. I got into their advanced honors program, so I'm looking forward to it," said Davies, of Jamaica, Queens. "I really love math, and engineering allows you to be creative, too."