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Long IslandEducationGraduations

Student: 'I found myself at Nassau.'

A graduate expresses gratitude on her cap Wednesday

A graduate expresses gratitude on her cap Wednesday at the Nassau Community College commencement at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau Community College held its 59th commencement Wednesday night at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.

Number of graduates

3,242 total; 1,655 associate of arts degrees, 520 associate of applied science degrees, 957 associate of science degrees, 110 certificates

Commencement speaker

Nassau Community College President W. Hubert Keen drew inspiration from medical researcher and physician Dr. Jonas Salk during Wednesday’s commencement speech. Keen said one of Salk’s most famous quotes was “the reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.”

Keen told graduates: “He meant that when you do good work, you have earned opportunity, the opportunity to continue to accomplish more things, even great things.”

Keen said the minor challenges they’ve overcome while in college, like getting through a tough semester, have lasting effects. He told graduates that such challenges "lead to the realization that you are reaching a major goal.” He said reaching and accomplishing bigger challenges builds confidence and changes a person.

Keen told graduates that they have earned the respect of fellow classmates and family members and now is time to explore new worlds.

“To the Class of 2019, you have earned the opportunity to go out and do more,” he said.

Student speaker

Jane Jeong shared her "story of failure" with her classmates. 

Jeong said she left her hometown of Queens and enrolled at Bucknell University with hopes and ambition. Jeong said she eventually realized that she didn't feel welcome at Bucknell and finally dropped out after "one night I woke up to banging on my door" punctuated with the sounds of racial ephitets, laughter and "footsteps running away." 

Jeong, who is Korean-American, said she felt like a failure leaving after Bucknell. Jeong said she and her family survived a serious car accident not long after she came home. The accident, Jeong said, helped her realize that situations from the past cannot dictate her future. 

"It was through following this belief that I found myself at Nassau, two years ago, searching for the best education possible, a second chance at making a difference," said Jeong, 21, a liberal arts major from Flushing. 

Jeong told her classmates that she felt much more comfortable at Nassau Community College. 

"Pursuing your education despite the obstacles that stood in your way, Class of 2019, I have been inspired, humbled, and motivated by you."


Nick Ernest Germain, 28, Uniondale, liberal arts

"I eventually want to become a teacher," said Germain, who started at NCC in 2008 but took time off for military service. "I'm not sure what I want to teach, but I know I'm good at history."

Adriana Tapia, 20, Freeport, business administration

"My economics class was my biggest challenge," said Tapia, who already has a job lined up to become the office manager for a dental office in Baldwin. "The teacher was great, but she told us there would be trick questions, so it made us work harder to do well on her tests." 

John Montelione, 24, Levittown, liberal arts

"My favorite class was debate and argumentation," said Montelione, a Marine Corps veteran who wants to earn his bachelor's degree from Stony Brook, Long Island University or York College in Pennsylvania. "I love arguing. I love yelling. I love having my opinions out there. I want to become a social worker and work for the VA." 

Lynne Mai, 25, Guangzhou, China, business administration

"I really want to become a businesswoman here because I have some experience in that in China," said Mai, who plans to stay in America after graduation. "I made a lot of friends here, and I feel so great that I had a chance to meet them."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included an incorrect reference to the ethnic background of student speaker Jane Jeong.

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