St. Joseph's College held its 100th commencement Wednesday for graduates of its Long Island campus at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum.
Number of graduates
887 bachelor’s degrees and 353 master’s degrees
The Rev. Francis Pizzarelli, founder, executive director and CEO of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He began working at the college's Long Island campus in 1981 as an instructor of social sciences and humanities. Pizzarelli spoke about integrity — the theme of commencement. "Integrity is about human connectedness — having the courage to move beyond our discomfort, building bridges instead of walls, being inclusive and not exclusive, welcoming everyone to the conversation, no matter what their religion, their ethnicity, whether they have papers or they don’t have papers, no matter what their sexual orientation or social status is," he said. "Everyone is welcome at the table, and these young men and women are our future … May you have the courage to live the integrity that we celebrate."
Courtney Cowie-Sladky, 23, of Commack, was undergraduate speaker for the Long Island campus. An English major, she plans to become an English teacher. St. Joseph's graduates "have been equipped with a quality education that empowers us to shape a world that works for everyone now and into the future. Living a life rooted in integrity enables us to do this, because we will be empathetic to the individuals and groups who have been pushed to the outskirts of society, who have been looked over, forsaken, and abused. We will keep fighting until every voice is heard, and these groups will become seen."
Sarah Griffiths, who received her master's in literacy and cognition, spoke about the qualities of good leadership. "For many of us, we are entering the education field, where we interact with students, parents and colleagues on a daily basis," said Griffiths, 28, of Middle Island. "It is extremely important for us to be trustworthy and dependable, because children put all of their trust in us as adults to take care of them. They depend on us to keep them safe and teach them all we know. Children lead by example, which means that if we give them the example of a dependable and trustworthy person, they will adapt the same morals and become productive, compassionate adults."
Joseph Alo, 21, Deer Park, history
"I think it’s long deserved," he said. “The last four years have been very long years and I am looking forward to everything that is going on. I have a bright future and I have a couple of jobs lined up and I am excited to get into the field of education. And I couldn’t have done it without my family, and I want to thank them too.”
Loretta Jefferson, 56, Bellport, organizational management
"I feel so good. This is awesome. This is amazing and this has been an incredible journey and I thank God,” said Jefferson, whose daughter, Crystal Williams, was graduating Wednesday as well, with a degree in human services. “This is incredible, just incredible. This is a wonderful day.”
Ashley Rodriguez, 22, Patchogue, therapeutic recreation
"I feel very relieved, like a weight has lifted off my shoulders,” Rodriguez said. “But I am excited for the future. I plan on going to graduate school, and I am preparing for that and preparing for the exam to be a certified recreational therapist. St. Joe’s has given me the best four years of my life.”
Taylor Henry, 27, Greenlawn, criminal justice
“I am incredibly excited. I never thought I would make it to this point,” Henry said. “It is definitely a monumental experience, and I am honored and grateful to everyone who has helped me get here. I am going to go to law school — there is a dual-degree program at Touro. It took a lot of hurdles to get here.”