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SUNY Orange Celebrates Graduates at Commencement

May 23, 2024

Photo Galleries: Health Professions | BMST | Liberal Arts

Archived Video Streams: Health Professions (not streamed) | BMST | Liberal Arts

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Flexibility was the word of the day on Thursday (May 23) at SUNY Orange as the College hosted three separate Commencement ceremonies, one that was moved indoors due to morning thunderstorms and two conducted outdoors in a tent on the College’s Alumni Green, all with the focus of providing graduates the well-deserved opportunity to walk across the stage and be congratulated on earning their degrees.

In all, approximately 425 graduates participated in SUNY Orange’s 74th Commencement ceremonies, where they were urged to think about others, celebrate the results of their hard work and take pride in the community they created at SUNY Orange.

Three smiling grads

That community spirit was on display early in the day as thunder and lightning in the morning necessitated the College moving its Health Professions ceremony indoors to the Physical Education Center. The move did little to dampen the spirits of the graduates, most of whom also celebrated coveted pinning ceremonies this week and will soon be sitting for licensing exams in a variety of healthcare roles.

Bright sunny skies and growing humidity greeted the BMST (Business, Math, Science and Technology) graduates for their 2 p.m. ceremony under the tent, while the Liberal Arts graduates filed under the tent at 5 p.m. on a nice mid-Spring evening.

More Coverage:

Speaking Up, Moving Forward
A Journey of 5,000 Miles Before Crossing the Commencement Stage

Student speakers included Angie Almeyda (Health Professions), Djean Nikitov (BMST) and Lucia Vanella (Liberal Arts). Vanella and Nikitov were recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence this past Spring.

They were joined by faculty speakers Mary Ann McGinnis-Adamo, chair of the Dental Hygiene Department; Liz Carris-Swan, associate professor of mathematics; and Dr. Michael Quinn, assistant professor of Global Studies. Additional remarks were offered by SUNY Orange Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Martucci Jr., Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and representatives of the SUNY Orange Foundation. The BMST grads were also joined by State University of New York Trustee Stanley Litow.

“We all have had different paths to get us here. Some of us are straight out of high school and some have high schoolers, but we are all here accomplishing our dreams,” said nursing program graduate Angie Almeyda who spoke to her fellow Health Professions graduates in the morning. “We all pushed past the obstacles to not only be accepted into health professional programs but to reach this side. I am very proud we changed the trajectory of our lives after a few years of sacrifices.

Smiling grad

“I know some of us are not done, and will be transferring elsewhere. I will be starting my BSN in the fall but I now know I am capable, and so should you. You have overcome your battles to be here today,” she added. “So, I stand before you as a 39-year-old student graduating from the nursing program and implore you to continue pursuing your dreams. Don’t give up on them.”

In her remarks, Young took the audiences back to 1949 when a group of civic-minded citizens of Orange County eagerly adopted a new higher education concept—community college—and eventually created SUNY Orange. She said those founders, as committed and visionary as they were, likely could not have imagined the College and its graduates today, even in their wildest dreams.

“My wish for you as you head off to your next phase, your next challenge is partially that you never stop being someone’s wildest dream because so far, so good. You’re about to get your college diploma. But as you progress and you have your own dreams, I wish for your dreams to include the collective and that you connect to the dreams of the ones around you,” Young explained. “Imagine sitting on this lawn in another 75 years, what might Orange County, New York, and the United States be saying about our collective good then? What is our community’s wildest dream?”

For the Liberal Arts graduates, Vanella shared her appreciation for having selected SUNY Orange as her first educational stop after high school. “The teachers, the staff, and the students here made me grateful that I ‘missed out’ on the typical ‘college experience’ because I got to be a part of this wonderful community,” she said. “I want us all to recognize the rarity of what we had. I want us all to take a moment to appreciate those who helped us create our own communities and I want to thank all of you for being an influential part of mine.

Nursing grad

“We will now go to other institutions or careers. Some might come back here, or go home, but wherever we go we know how to make lasting connections that mean something and that’s worth more than any ‘college experience.’ So, congratulations graduates for not only graduating, but becoming part of something great. Becoming part of a community.”

A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Nikitov took a moment to offer a message of thanks in Spanish to his family watching the Commencement live stream back in his home country, and then shared a message of appreciation with his new SUNY Orange “family” as well.

“Today we won. Enjoy and celebrate with those you love and care about because we deserve it. But at the end, we don’t celebrate the fact that we have a piece of paper, we celebrate that we failed. We failed. We learned, and the unwavering support of those around us, we overcame. Your stories are stories of passion, resilience, but most importantly, love,” he said. “To all my friends here and anyone that shared this journey with me. You helped me to be my best version, even when things looked bleak for me, and I truly hope I helped and supported all of you in the same way you did to me.”

In all, approximately 650 students completed their degree and certificate programs over the past academic year, pending final review of transcripts.

Each year, SUNY Orange awards diplomas to students who earn Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science degrees, while presenting graduation certificates to those who complete the College’s various certificate programs.

Seen and Heard at SUNY Orange Commencement 2024

  • Mom Karen Mignogno shared that her daughter, Kimberly Mignogno, scheduled to graduate in August, was crossing the stage carrying her father’s ashes who passed away three years ago. Karen said, “This is such a wonderful day and it is so special that she found a way for him to be with us today.”
  • Yanitzy Giron shared, “I am the first generation in my family to finish high school and graduate from college. I am so excited to graduate from the nursing program and thank both of my parents for making this possible.”
  • Jordan Walker is a second-generation nursing graduate. Mom, Sherron, also graduated from nursing at SUNY Orange. Jordan said, “I would like to transfer in the Fall for my BSN and someday work in emergency medicine. Today is really about the connections you make. I was so happy to be able to line up and sit with my friends--the people I started this journey with are the people I will finish with, and that made it special.”
  • Goshen High School graduate Jadel Estiverne started her SUNY Orange journey in biology before happily switching in order to prepare for biochemistry. She will transfer to SUNY New Paltz and proclaimed instructor Jaqueline Bair to be the “best chemistry professor ever!”
  • The Goris family was so excited to have siblings Chelsea and Joseph graduate on the same day from SUNY Orange. Joseph majored in architecture and plans to attend NYIT in the Fall. Chelsea completed her degree in business administration and will be transferring to SUNY New Paltz. The pair graduated from Middletown High School. Their parents, Jose and Miriam, expressed how proud they were and that this accomplishment by their children makes them feel like they are doing a great job. Joseph said, “Graduating with my older sister is amazing!”
  • When the crowd heard the last name, Chavarria, called three times in a row, everyone imagined a set of triplets must be graduating together. Twins Karen and Karina, who graduated from Valley Central, were joined in commencement by their older sister, Katherine, an NFA alum. The trio received their Liberal Arts Humanities and Social Science degrees. “We really liked having the opportunity to study together and socialize together,” said Karen. “We also recommended teachers to each other,” shared Karina. The group agreed they did receive a lot of attention. Karen is looking into the next steps to continue her education. Karina and Katherine are joining the workforce.