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May 18, 2018

Brooklyn's Best Graduate on Coney Island Boardwalk

WNBC's David Ushery Highlights St. Francis College #GradontheWater at Coney Island

Imploring the graduates to 'Stand up and yell," WNBC 4 New York Anchor and Reporter David Ushery commended the Class of 2018 for overcoming obstacles and doing the work necessary to reach Spring Commencement on May 17 at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island.

(Watch the 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremony)

"If you fall, we can help pick you up. If you make a mistake, we can help you learn from it and fix it. If one door closes on you, we can help you find another door," said Ushery. "But if you give up, if you become disillusioned, we've all lost. But I know you won't. I know St. Francis. You got this. You made it this far. You are Brooklyn Strong."

(Meet Some of the Graduates of the Class of 2018)

Ushery, a long-time friend of the College, made sure to visit with students last month, attending science and communication arts classes to meet with students and faculty and get to know more about the community.

way to go

Before Mr. Ushery took the stage, St. Francis President Miguel Martinez-Saenz challenged the graduates to demand the impossible. He encouraged them to, "believe in yourselves. Stay true to yourselves. Authentically live your lives. Don't let the world dictate what lives it thinks you want to lead." He asked them to think hard about their dreams and goals, cautioning them with his final words.

(Watch David Ushery's Address)

"I ask you to watch your thoughts because they become your words. Watch your words because they become your actions. Watch your actions because they will become your character. Watch your character because it will become your destiny."

(Watch President Martinez-Saenz' Remarks)

The valedictorian for the Class of 2018 was Valerie Kaufmann '18, a Communication Arts major with a double minor in Fine Arts and French. In addition to perfect grades, Kaufmann also interned at the Smithsonian Institution, Homes for Homeless, Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, New York State United Teachers, and in the Office of United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

(Watch Valedictorian Valerie Kaufmann)

"Our generation needs to take a front seat in shaping the future. That's what our success is going to look like; not the money you make, not the fame you achieve but the communities that you help to build," said Kaufmann who also volunteers at multiple organizations around the city. "We can be proud of the community we've helped to build at St. Francis. Now it's time to pay it forward and take that engagement out into the world."

Kaufmann also reminded students that they may not make a huge impact all at once; that "incremental progress is still progress" and "not every gesture is going to be grand." In addition, she thanked professors Eric Platt (History), Scott Weiss (Communication Arts) and Jennifer Wingate (Fine Arts) for their support, mentorship, and commitment to her success while at St. Francis.

Other students involved in commencement were Psychology major Gwendolyn Bianca Etienne '18 who sang the Star Spangled Banner, and two other students with perfect 4.0 GPAs; Alexis Vazquez '18 (Psychology) and Annais Commiskey '18 (Mathematics).

On Wednesday, the College hosted a Baccalaureate Mass at St. James Cathedral Basilica with Celebrant The Most Reverend James Massa, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Portions of the ceremony are available on the St. Francis website ( The entire ceremony will be posted Monday, May 21.

(See all the Commencement Photos on Flickr at

Mass Photos are located at

Among the other students graduating are:

Melissa Jagharry '18 graduates with Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Accounting. She is a member of the Accounting Honors Society, is on the Deans Lists, and received the Academic Excellence Award in Accounting – BS/MS Degree. Melissa says that weekly meetings of the Accounting Society were high points where her fellow students could give and receive support as they faced a challenging and rigorous curriculum. She credits Accounting Professor Louis D'Elia with having the biggest influence on her while at St. Francis. "There were many challenges, doubts, and failures; but twice as many rewards, successful moments, and happiness over these five years. Now my greatest accomplishment thus far is to hold my degree and be thankful for every one of those highs and lows." After graduation, Melissa will next take her CPA exam and begin working at mid-sized firm Mazars USA LLP.

Hannah Berger '18 is a Nursing major who had one externship at NYU-Langone Health in cardiothoracic surgery and another at Staten Island Hospital. As President of the Nursing Club, she led community service events like raising money for the March of Dimes at the March for Babies and preparing food to serve at St. Joseph's Soup Kitchen in Greenwich Village. She received the Nursing Leadership Award and is a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society. She thanks all her Nursing professors and support staff for leading her to success at St. Francis. Hannah will be taking the NCLEX exam this summer to become a registered nurse.

Johnny Perez '18 is the Director of U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a membership organization committed to ending U.S. sponsored torture, and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, including solitary confinement. A Criminal Justice major, Johnny served as a Safe Reentry Advocate for the Urban Justice Center's Mental Health Project. He has worked tirelessly to change the status quo of unjust policies and practices as a member of pro-social groups the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), and the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is also a member of the NYC Bar Association's Correction and Reentry Committee and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Juvenile Law Center. Johnny has testified at the United Nations and been interviewed by numerous news organizations around the world. Recently featured in an ad campaign that ran in the New York subway system, Johnny commented, "I remember when I was younger, I was homeless after running away from home and slept on the A train for two weeks. Today I'm still on the train, but in a different way and for a reason I never could have imagined." (Learn more about Johnny at

Monica Murray '18 graduates from the five-year combined Bachelor's and Master's degree program in Psychology. She transferred to St. Francis College to take advantage of small classes and devoted faculty. "I attribute much of my success to the psych department. I think I really benefited from the small class size and the motivation faculty helped to instill in me," said Murray, who will be attending Hofstra University working towards a PsyD in School-Community Psychology. She will also be working for the autism clinic based at Hofstra. Monica won the Uwe P. Gielen, Ph.D. Award for Excellence in Psychology and was part of a group of students who took first place for best poster at the 25th Annual Pace University Psychology Conference.

Marcus Da Silva '18 - Marcus came to St. Francis College from Brazil to study Economics with a concentration in Finance. He used his skills as a swimmer to earn a scholarship that afforded him the opportunity. He served as Captain of the Men's Swimming & Diving team and holds several College records at various distances. Marcus interned last summer at JP Morgan Chase and will begin working there full time upon graduation.

Laura Dimante '18 is a Political Science major with a minor in history. An international student from Latvia she transferred to St. Francis to play Tennis for an NCAA Division I team and take advantage of the opportunities New York City offers. She played first singles for the team this year, helping them to one of their best records in College history. Laura made the Deans List and was part of the Model UN Club. She will next go to graduate school to study International Relations: International Security at the University of Groningen in Netherlands.

About David Ushery

Emmy award-winner David Ushery is the co-anchor for NBC 4 New York's 11:00am and 5:00pm weekday newscasts. An integral member of the NBC 4 New York news team, Ushery has covered many of the largest and most visible breaking news stories across the Tri-State region - and around the world including Hurricane Sandy, the Newtown Connecticut elementary school shootings; the emergency landing of US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River and the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

Ushery co-anchored the weekend editions of "News 4 New York" at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and was host of the Emmy-nominated "The Debrief with David Ushery."

Ushery joined NBC 4 New York from WABC-TV, where, during his 10-year tenure, he rose from general assignment reporter to full-time anchor of the early morning and noon broadcasts and was the primary fill-in anchor for the evening newscasts. Well respected for his work as a reporter, Ushery provided extensive, in-depth reporting of the shooting death of Amadou Diallo and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Known for his passion for volunteerism and tireless service to the local community, Ushery is a much sought after emcee and keynote speaker for area schools and nonprofit events. He has been repeatedly recognized for his commitment to NBC 4 New York's viewing audience and has been honored with multiple awards.

The Network Journal and Black Professionals Business Magazine named Ushery one of its "40 Under-Forty" for his journalistic accomplishments. The Israeli Consulate in New York City honored him for his comprehensive, fair and balanced reporting on issues that affect all New Yorkers.

Ushery, a Harry S Truman Scholar, is a graduate of the University of Connecticut. In June, 2014 Ushery received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from St. John's University in New York. He is married and has a son.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.


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180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY11201

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