Two students, overcoming experiences with cancer, graduate from the Mount

May 22, 2017

Grads fight cancer

Nursing student Diana Pernicano of Yorktown Heights, N.Y. graduated from Mount Saint Mary College on Saturday, May 20, after beating cancer early in her college career.


When Diana Pernicano of Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and Amanda Pecorella of Fishkill, N.Y. strode across the Mount Saint Mary College Commencement stage on Saturday, May 20, they did so in honor of those affected by cancer.

The day of the ceremony, Diana Pernicano and her classmates trekked up the hill and into the tent overlooking the Mount, where she and 618 others would receive their diplomas. She was graduating a year later than anticipated, but what might have been an inconvenience for some was a cause of celebration for the young student of nursing.

Pernicano began her studies at the Mount in the fall of 2012, and her battle against cancer began in fall of 2013. She found a lump in her neck during a hands-on lesson in a nursing class at the Mount, and she credits the course with saving her life.

She received treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma immediately, and is now free of the disease.

“They say it takes a village, and it took the help of a lot of people to get me well enough to continue at the Mount,” Pernicano explained, including her family, friends, and caregivers. “Thanks to everyone who gave me a hand.”

When she returned to the Mount after treatment, Pernicano did so with a renewed sense of purpose. In addition to resuming her honors-level studies, she held leadership positions in the Mount’s Colleges Against Cancer club and co-chaired the Mount’s 2015 Relay for Life, which raised $35,000 to help fight the disease. Of that total, she raised more than $2,000 on her own.

The day before Commencement, at the college’s annual Nurse Pinning ceremony, Pernicano was given the Sigma Theta Tau Leadership Award commemorating her excellent work.

“The first thing I thought of when I got the award was the American Cancer Society,” she explained. “Without them I wouldn’t be here today. That award was really for everybody fighting cancer, not just me.”

Grads fight cancer Amanda Pecorella celebrated her second Mount commencement in as many years on Saturday, May 20. After getting her bachelor’s degree in 2016 after only three years, she earned her master’s degree in accounting/business administration in less than 12 months.

Pecorella lost her mother to cancer about two years ago. Though it was difficult for her, she said it also motivated her to excel in all aspects of her life.

RIGHT: Amanda Pecorella of Fishkill, N.Y. received her master’s degree in business administration/accounting on Saturday, May 20. 

“My mom wouldn’t want me to go on with life missing opportunities,” said Pecorella. “She’s the one who led me to turn all of those emotions that come with the loss of a loved one into strength that will lead me further into life, even though she can’t be here with me.”

In 2016, she and her team raised more than $5,000 for the Mount’s Relay for Life effort.

Pecorella began working at Vanacore, DeBenedictus, DiGovanni & Weddell, LLP (VDDW), a local accounting firm, less than two weeks after graduation last year. This year, she accepted a job with RBT CPAs, LLP, a certified public accounting firm formed by three Hudson Valley accounting firms, including VDDW. She will begin on May 31, 2017.

“The Mount is a big reason I’m the person I am today,” Pecorella explained. “The mentorship they give you through really just helps make you feel like you can do anything and keep your eyes open to all opportunities in front of you.”