James Chichester, 21, of Medford, is among the students who...

James Chichester, 21, of Medford, is among the students who graduated from Suffolk County Community College on Sunday. (May 20, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

The Suffolk County Community College commencement was held at the Health, Sports and Education Center at the Michael J. Grant Campus in Brentwood.

Number of graduates

4,012 -- the largest graduating class in the college's history, according to president Shaun L. McKay.

Keynote speaker

Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System reminded the graduates to cherish friends and family who supported them. "None of us succeed alone," he said. "We all get help directly and indirectly from all those people around us and from our families, and it is something never to forget, and you will be doing it for others as your careers progress." While challenges may come their way, he added, they will never fail unless they give up. "Being challenged is inevitable," he said, "It happens to all of us; but being defeated is optional."

Guest speaker

Sen. Charles Schumer told the graduating class that growing up during the technology boom will help them best figure out what to do in life. "You are the first generation to grow up in the middle of all this new technology," he said. "You were born into it; it's in your bones. Technology to you is like water is to a fish."


Student speakers


Shelby Harvey, Eastern Campus, with a 3.9 GPA

Harvey was Honors Club president and vice president of Phi Theta Kappa. She also received the SUNY Chancellor's award and will go to the University of Texas in Austin.

"What we all hold to be true however is that this has been one of the most important times of our lives. . . . We have accomplished something great. We strived to achieve this degree. . . . We received the support we needed to get this far -- always remember that. The truth is, we can't do this alone."

Jennifer Carall, Ammerman Campus, with a 3.7 GPA was president of Phi Theta Kappa

Carall told fellow graduates this was an important marker in their futures, whatever they may be. "For some of us, this is where our journey ends," she said. "But for most of us, we will continue our hard work as we continue our educations. Even though we have a long road ahead of us, we have reached an important milestone in our journey."

Valerie Jean Brancato, Michael J. Grant Campus, graduated in January with a 3.9 GPA, now a registered nurse

"For each of us our journey to commencement day has been unique," she said, "However, our common experiences bond us eternally."


The graduates


Dulce Rojas, 21, Farmingville, Ammerman Campus, associate degree in liberal arts

"I'm going to St. Joseph's for a bachelor's in speech communications, and then after to Adelphi for a master's in speech pathology,"she said. "I'm very excited."

John Newkirk, 46, Patchogue, Ammerman Campus, associate degree in liberal arts

He said he started the degree 28 years ago. "From here I'm going to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting," he said. "I hope to lean towards being a cameraman behind the scenes," but might consider becoming a broadcaster.

Cory Williams, 22, Shirley, Ammerman Campus, associate degree in business administration

"I'm going to get my internships to basically get my experience in the field, and eventually land a really good job," he said, "In the long run, it would be to own my own business."

Kaitlyn Mimnaugh, 20, Islip Terrace, Ammerman Campus, associate degree in liberal arts with a psychology option

She said she wants to find a "full time job -- hopefully something in this field, and then hopefully go back to school."

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