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SUNY Schenectady graduates over 500

SUNY Schenectady graduates over 500

'We saw your potential and greatness from day one'
SUNY Schenectady graduates over 500
SUNY Schenectady Grand Marshall Kim Otis stands in front at Proctors for the college's 49th commencement Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- Over 500 students at SUNY Schenectady County Community College on Thursday were granted degrees or certificates as the school celebrated its annual commencement.

As the students sat patiently at Proctors, awaiting their moment at the center of the stage and their diplomas, they were given one final flood of advice from the college.

“I believe in who you are and that what you have learned at SUNY Schenectady will make you well-equipped to face any challenges,” SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono told the graduates.

Kim Otis, a professor at the schools, told the students they have proven themselves capable of thriving in their chosen fields.

“We saw your potential and greatness from day one,” she said. “Some of your greatness was hidden a little bit deeper than others, but we found it.”

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER SUNY Schenectady president Dr. Steady Moono shares a laugh with Commencement Speaker Dion Flynn at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
SUNY Schenectady president Dr. Steady Moono shares a laugh with Commencement Speaker Dion Flynn at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Keynote speaker Dion Flynn, a SUNY Schenectady alumn and New York-based comedian who impersonated Barack Obama on the "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," outlined his own advice for the graduates.

Take risks and don't be afraid to ask for help, he told the students. Relax and let go of fear, he said, even when you are making jokes on national television, and be present and connect with people around you.

He told the graduates that no matter the stage of their life their success will come down to their ability to connect to the people around them.

“It's your ability to connect that matters, not the people around you,” he said. “The people who are with you now are worth connecting with.”

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER SUNY Schenectady graduates Sabrina Balzan of Bethlehem, left, and Lily Reid of Clifton Park stop at the Apostrophe Cafe for a snack at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
SUNY Schenectady graduates Sabrina Balzan of Bethlehem, left, and Lily Reid of Clifton Park stop at the Apostrophe Cafe for a snack at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Valerie Lenigk, president of the Student Government Association and a graduate in Thursday's ceremony, implored her classmates to rise above the distractions of everyday life and to actively pursue their passions.

“All these pings, dings, rings and vibrations keep us looking down at our screen,” she said. “Instead of reacting to these, we can choose to act instead, we can make up our own minds about who we are, what is important to us and what we want to do.”

The real “Big Brother” of our time, she said, is the endless stream of distractions that diminishes imagination and creativity. So put down those phones and go after the things you truly believe in, she urged her fellow graduates.

“It is true we live in a world full of noise and so many distractions but we know what matters to us,” she said. “That is why we are here today.”

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER SUNY Schenectady graduate Mark Burdess of Schenectady lines up with nearly 500 fellow graduates at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
SUNY Schenectady graduate Mark Burdess of Schenectady lines up with nearly 500 fellow graduates at Proctors Theatre for the 49th Commencement Thursday, May 23, 2019.

As names were still being called to the stage, Shaneika Blunt of Schenectady posed in the Proctors arcade for pictures with her family. Blunt, who works at Living Resources, earned a degree in human services. She went to school so that she could advance her career, she said.

The path to graduation wasn't always easy, Blunt said, but she stuck with it and finished her program.

“There were times, considering I've got other things,” she said, gesturing to her family. “I just kept pushing. Luckily I had support, that definitely helped.”

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