- by Mount Saint Mary College

As Mount Saint Mary College students graduated with their second family of peers and professors, some had the unique opportunity of walking the Commencement stage alongside their relatives as well.

Jenna Park of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. graduated in 2020 with her MSEd in Special Education. A year after being postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Class of 2020 was welcomed back home to the Mount for their in-person Commencement on Sunday, May 23.

Jenna Park and Tiffany Gagliano photographed standing next to the Mount Saint Mary College entrance sign.Park was finally presented with her diploma on stage by none other than her mother, Tiffany Gagliano, dean of the Mount's School of Business.

Being handed her diploma by her mother was, "The most incredible feeling...It's absolutely a once in a lifetime opportunity I'll never forget," Park said.

"My mom is the most extraordinary person I know," Park added. "She is hardworking and motivates me to be the best student and person I can be. My mom has always encouraged me to pursue a degree in education because she understands my love for teaching and helping others."

As Park enters her third year of teaching at George F. Baker Upper School in Tuxedo, N.Y., her goal after graduation is to continue her dream job: spending every day in the classroom with her incredible students.

Park was not the only graduate sharing the stage with her mother.

Brianna Mercado of Newburgh, N.Y. was finally able to attend graduation on Saturday, May 22, after receiving her BA in Public Relations with a concentration in Journalism in December of 2019. Her mother, Jenine Mercado, also of Newburgh, N.Y., graduated alongside her with an MSEd in Adolescence and Special Education as a 2021 graduate.Although Brianna was technically supposed to graduate in the Class of 2020's Sunday ceremony, the Mount's Office of Student Activities arranged for Brianna to graduate in the 2021 Commencement, so she and her mother could experience the ceremony together.

"Graduating with my mom was such a surreal feeling," Brianna explained. "My mom has supported me throughout my entire college career and to have her walk across the stage with me and her see me receive my diploma is truly something special."

"I truly cannot thank the staff at the Mount enough for making the Commencement ceremony such a memorable experience I will carry with me forever," she added.

Lanisha Outlaw of Middletown, N.Y. graduated with her BA in Nursing on Friday, May 21 as a 2021 graduate in the Nursing Commencement ceremony. Her daughter's graduation from a different institution was on the same day, but "she opted to forgo her graduation to be here, to walk with me in mines," Outlaw explained. "It's a very monumental moment for both my daughter and I to be able to...walk that stage together. It's a journey we started together, and it's a journey that we finished on the same day."

In addition to these mother-daughter graduation duos, a trio of cousins also graduated in the 2021 Commencement ceremony together.

Olivia Pelliccia, Nicole Cervone, and Renee Hydo holding their graduation caps.Nicole Cervone of Shirley, N.Y., BA in Mathematics; Renee Hydo of Bethpage, N.Y., BA in Mathematics; and Olivia Pelliccia of Hicksville, N.Y., BA in Media Studies; are cousins who journeyed through all four years at the Mount with each other.

Hydo explained, "It was such an unbelievable experience to be able to go through this chapter of our lives side by side...Going to college with them [Cervone and Pelliccia] was so incredible. We got to enjoy all of the moments together, go through all the hardships together, and continue to grow our bond by living together."

As not only cousins but best friends, Hydo noted that the three of them have always shared in their important milestones – from their Communions to high school graduations and every moment in between.

"We got to enjoy and experience these big moments together, and it just would not have felt right to not be together for this," Hydo said. "Us graduating together, having our family together and able to celebrate together, was the perfect ending to our story at the Mount and a perfect way to celebrate everything we have accomplished, individually and together."


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