New York College of Health Professions, based in Syosset, held its 2013 graduation ceremony at the Melville Marriott on Saturday.

Number of associate degrees: 174

Number of bachelor and master degrees: 50

Keynote speaker:

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, older sister of singer Diana Ross and the first black woman to serve as dean of a medical school in the United States, told the students: "Each of you began a journey long ago that led to where you sit today. On your journey, you have had to make many personal sacrifices, and we recognize that. It hasn't always been easy or fun, but today you have arrived. You have acquired the knowledge and mastered the skills necessary to be a health care provider."

Student speaker

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Jeanine Pena, 45, of Sayville graduated with an associate degree in massage therapy and a bachelor of professional studies/master of science in acupuncture.

"When I hear people complain that they are not happy and cannot pursue a new career or make a change because they're too old, I say, 'Yes you can, it doesn't matter how old you are, there is always a way with hard work and determination.' "

Other students

Jeannette Donato, 53, Ronkonkoma, massage therapy: "My plan is to work in a rehab center and also to help cancer patients . . . this program is great because we learned to . . . help people."

Maurice Allen, 23, Hempstead, massage therapy: "I'm thankful because I have more plans, and I have a lot more great things to accomplish."

Matthew Thompson, 28, Montauk, massage therapy: "I was a lifeguard for many years . . . I liked helping people. I thought therapy would be a good route to go."

Cynthia Murphy, 40, Bay Shore, massage therapy: "It is going to give me the opportunity to work with physically active people, and I would love to get involved with Wounded Warriors with massage therapy."

Jennifer Whalen, 22, Patchogue, massage therapy: "The clinic gave you a real-life experience . . . I feel confident for when I get out there."

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Diana Stewart, 27, West Babylon, massage therapy: "I'm really excited to get out there and put to work all the things I've learned in the past two years."