- by Mount Saint Mary College

Sometimes you can come home again.

After being cheated out of an in-person graduation by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Saint Mary College's Class of 2020 finally had the chance to walk across the Commencement stage this May.

The 2020 Nursing students had their ceremony on Friday, May 21 along with their 2021 Nursing counterparts. The past year has molded these 2020 graduates into accomplished nurses with some of the most unique on-the-job training that anyone in healthcare has ever experienced.

Emily Leath of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., a 2020 Nursing grad, has been working at Stony Brook University Hospital in the kidney transplant unit for about eight months. Even a year later, returning for graduation was worth it, she said: "I'm so happy...I miss this place so much."

Leath was also full of praise for her family: "I would like to dedicate my pin to all that have supported me on this journey, in particular, my mother," she said. "Thank you to all of my supporters who have given me the love and encouragement to reach my full potential."

The remaining members of the Mount's Class of 2020 were invited to return to their alma mater on Sunday, May 23. For some, like Business major Lauren Oury of Bethpage, N.Y., the overdue graduation doubled as a reunion with their fellow classmates. For others, like Business Administration major Jovin Ramos of Secaucus, N.J., the ceremony was a chance to celebrate with family after a long period of social distancing.

"COVID has been crazy," Ramos said. "It's just been a tough time for us, sitting at home trying to find the right path. It's been tough for everybody."

Headshot of Alexandra SmithFor Alexandra Smith of Middletown, N.Y., a History major who was on the Childhood and Special Education tracks, the decision to return for graduation was an easy one.

"My experience at the Mount has been so amazing," Smith said "Between my professors and my peers, my years here were truly the best. I wouldn't miss this. I'm so happy to be here...I miss the views and I miss my professors. They were just nothing short of amazing. The Mount was a second home for me."

After graduating last year, Smith quickly obtained a job as a third-grade teacher in the Warwick Valley Central School District. 

"It's been great to step out of school and hop right into my profession," she explained. "It's been quite the year, but we've been doing our best and adapting to all the COVID changes. Teaching is still the best job I could have ever had."

Headshot of Emma Sweeney in her cap and gownLike Smith, Emma Sweeney of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., was a Mount History major who was on the Childhood and Special Education tracks. And also like Smith, Sweeney has already found a full-time job in her field: she is teaching in a kindergarten class at Horizons on the Hudson in Newburgh, N.Y. On returning for graduation, she said, "I'm glad we had a chance to close out this chapter of our lives and walk across the stage."

Photo of Andre Waitley, Tottiona Waitley, and Dana Williams.

Like her peers, it didn't take long for Tottiona Waitley of Ellenville N.Y., a Sociology major, to find a job in her field: she is currently mentoring at-risk youth at Ellenville High School. She credited her advisor, Kate Burmon, assistant professor of Criminology, with helping her to be successful. She also thanked her family, noting that the graduation was as much for them as it was the students.

"This is a huge accomplishment and everyone wants to celebrate it," she said. "It's a proud moment for the parents, too."


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