Suffolk County Community College held its 56th commencement Thursday in the Health, Sports and Education Center on the Michael J. Grant campus in Brentwood.
Number of graduates
4,267 associate degrees and 91 certificates
Felicia Molzon, of Mastic Beach, a communications studies major representing the Eastern Campus, described the long journey that led her to college. She transformed from a homeless, at-risk youth, to a transfer student headed to Boston University, her first choice, on a $20,000 merit scholarship. “Remember that change is forthcoming,” she told her classmates. “We will re-adapt, re-encounter failure and redefine ourselves on the new avenues of life.”
Tri Minh Nguyen, of Vietnam, a liberal arts general studies major representing the Ammerman campus, said he always dreamed of coming to the United States. But when he got here, at times it felt like a nightmare, he told his classmates. Last spring he feared deportation, he said, and it was the college that provided a safe haven. He asked one small favor of those graduating: “Whatever uniform you’re going to put on, please make sure that you carry underneath a kind heart and an open mind, because in this world full of terror and hatred, love is the only solution. We are the change, and together we have power.”
Lacey Troy, of North Babylon, a communications major representing the Michael J. Grant campus, applauded her classmates for all they overcame to get to graduation day. “Love yourself, love others. Be proud of your accomplishments. Stay passionate and positive, and be thankful for the support that has helped you get to this day,” Troy said. “The best feeling in the world is to be proud of yourself, so be proud of yourself.”
Gary Clark, 35, business administration
“I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m ready to head on to Stony Brook and get my bachelor’s,” said Clark, of Shirley. Clark enrolled at Suffolk after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for 15 years.
Kristen Vega, 25, business office management
“Basically, I just want to grow within my company and just move up the ladder in the department where I’m at,” said Vega, of Bay Shore, the first in her family to graduate college. She currently works for Broadridge Financial Solutions, which helped her go to school.
Peter Oliva, 39, liberal arts
“Getting an education is important. I didn’t finish high school, so I wanted to do better,” said Oliva, of Ronkonkoma, who served in the U.S. Army for four years and U.S. Marine Corps for eight years. “It’s bittersweet. I did this for two years, and I met a lot of great people, a lot of great veterans, and now I’m moving on.”
Amanda Jaenicke, 19, baking and pastry arts
“I’ve always loved making cakes for occasions,” said Jaenicke, of Farmingdale. “I wanted to continue my education. Doing something you love isn’t work, so that’s why I took it up.”