It was the perfect day for an outdoor graduation at Brooklyn Bridge Park, as almost 400 St. Francis College students and thousands of friends and family celebrated the College’s Spring 2017 Commencement, Wednesday, May 24.
This year is the third year St. Francis held its graduation on the water, taking advantage of a beautiful Brooklyn Bridge and downtown Manhattan backdrop to frame the ceremony.
In place of a standard commencement address, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith led off the speaking portion of the program by reading her commissioned poem, “Garden of Eden,” a poem she hoped will prompt the graduates to reflect on this time in their lives.
Undergraduate Valedictorian Arber Sejdiu, a psychology major and member of the college’s Pre-Health Professions Program said, “Our class of 2017 consists of some of the smartest and most creative minds, and some of the hardest working and kindest souls that I have ever met in my life.”
An Albanian-American whose family comes from Kosovo and now lives on Staten Island, Arber was a member of the Duns Scotus honor society, treasurer of Psi Chi Honor Society chapter and the Psychology Club, President of the English Club and the editor-in-chief of The Montage, a student-run literary magazine. He also interned with the American Red Cross. He hopes to go to medical school and do dual residencies to become both a psychiatrist and a neurologist.
Valedictorian for Graduate Programs Sandra Raickovic, earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in accounting. Raickovic worked for three years as a Corporate Tax intern at JP Morgan Chase and hopes to continue working there after graduation. A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Raickovic was attracted to St. Francis College by academics and athletics, a combination that earned her a full scholarship. A former world-class athlete, Raickovic competed on the college’s track and field team in the triple jump and long jump for four years. Before coming to St. Francis she competed internationally as a professional, representing Serbia as a finalist at the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, among other world competitions.
Raickovic offered the graduates advice in overcoming challenges. “Hold on to what is good about you, what you have accomplished,” she advised. “Think about the times you helped someone even in the smallest way. Also, look at failure as an integral component of our lives. Failure directs you to success.”
The commencement celebration began a day earlier with a Baccalaureate Mass held at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn. The Most Reverend Paul R. Sanchez, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn was the main celebrant of the mass.
Among the other graduates was Corinne Ramos, who majored in health care management with a minor in biology. She traveled a long road to get to graduation, transferring to St. Francis College after her first two schools didn’t work out. She switched majors multiple times, but the goal of becoming the first member of her family to graduate kept her motivated to press on.
“Had I foreseen that SFC would become my second home, I would have transferred sooner,” said Ramos. In just two years, she became a member of the Active Minds Club (fighting the stigma of mental illness) and Eta Sigma Gamma (health education honor society), and made the Dean’s List and was awarded an Emerging Student Leader award. She was awarded an Achievement Grant and a St. Clare Scholarship, and she is a recipient of the Frank J. Macchiarola ’62 scholarship. Ramos is graduating at the top of the class in health care management.
“Dr. Michele Montecalvo [professor, Health Care Management] has been an amazing mentor during my years at SFC,” said Ramos. “Without her overwhelming, unconditional support, I don’t think I could have achieved as much both professionally and academically.”
In addition to working a full-time job outside of college, Ramos also worked for the Management Department and Office of Special Events.
Ramos begins graduate school at the University of Central Florida in the fall, working toward a master’s degree in health administration.
Marco Messina is a business management major with a minor in sports management and co-founder, with Michael Kantaris (class of 2018), of Italian Football TV, an internet-based show that brings the excitement of the Italian Serie A soccer league to an English-speaking audience. IFTV has more than 50,000 followers across its social media channels and almost 1.5 million views of its almost daily videos. In the short time since they began IFTV, Messina and Kantaris have worked with multiple professional teams, gone to Italy twice to record videos and interviewed a number of top players. The duo recently won the Audience Favorite award and third place at the 2017 St. Francis College Entrepreneur Pitch Challenge. Their goal is to turn IFTV into a profitable, stand-alone multimedia company.
“We always knew we had something special inside of us,” said Messina. “SFC helped us make it a reality.” He credits Mary Gelormino, Eda Sanchez-Persampieri, Dennis Anderson and Lou Pastina from the Center for Entrepreneurship “for staying patient with us and guiding our journey.”
Tamika De Coteau is a nursing student who chose St. Francis College over a public college because of the generous scholarship. A transfer student, she balanced her time at SFC with her career as a 14-year veteran in the Army. De Coteau has been deployed overseas twice, which has been hard on her two young children, but her time as a sergeant and a medic is what set her on the path to becoming a nurse.
“I want to thank Professor [Eleanor] Kehoe and all the professors for allowing me to be flexible in meeting my military responsibilities while studying at St. Francis,” said De Coteau. She says her favorite clinical rotation was in Labor and Delivery at NYC Health + Hospitals| Kings County. After she passes her NCLEX exam and becomes a registered nurse, De Coteau will decide between becoming an officer in the Army or going to work for a hospital or private medical facility.
Jason Manrique is a history major with a minor in criminal justice. He was president of the History Club and Pi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, as well as a delegate in the Model UN, and member of the Latin American Society. Manrique also took part in Student Lobby Day, traveling to Albany to meet with elected officials and inform them on education policies. In addition, he went to Segovia, Spain for an intersession, where he studied the language and Spanish history. Manrique will attend CUNY Graduate Center in the fall for a master’s degree in international studies. His future plans may include a career in public policy, research or activism focused on environmental or social justice. He thanks history professors Sara Haviland and Eric Platt, as well as Spanish professor Sintia Molina for their guidance and says his fondest memories at St. Francis were events such as the recent inauguration of the student government president because those events were times when all the different clubs would come together and the diversity of the college could really be seen.