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Student Story

Melissa Gonzalez ’23, B.S., Nursing

Melissa Gonzalez, who holds a 4.0 GPA, is one of five siblings. She loves to spend time with her family and especially cherishes being an aunt. In her free time, she enjoys going on long runs, reading a good book and traveling.

How does it feel to be named valedictorian at this spring’s commencement?
It’s the biggest honor and the best feeling, and I am deeply grateful. It’s so surreal, though. The reality of being named valedictorian is just starting to sink in. When I started college, my goal was, yes, to succeed but also to get involved and give back. St. Francis College is a small, tight-knit community that allows you to do just that.

Why did you choose to pursue a B.S. in nursing at St. Francis College?
I’ve always had a love for the sciences, and I also love helping people. In high school, I volunteered at a nursing home. That’s when I knew nursing was something I wanted to pursue.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your studies?
At first, I worried remote learning would prevent me from having the same type of clinical experience that would allow me to be the best nurse possible. I feared it would also take away from the full college experience. Then I took part in the Peer Leadership Academy, via Zoom, and that kept me grounded to SFC’s spirit and made me stay positive.

What professor, classroom experience or extracurricular activity at SFC had the greatest impact on your success here?
The Peer Leadership Academy, where, as a sophomore, I mentored first-year students. That role pushed me and forced me to step out of my comfort zone. It was an invaluable experience. More recently, working as a lab assistant in one of the state-of-the-art laboratories at SFC’s new campus has been a privilege. I am confident in the skills I have developed and will be able to apply them in any field of nursing.

What personal qualities allowed you to achieve at such a high level at SFC?
I have always been good at time management and setting priorities. Although I am super-driven and have a strong work ethic, balance is equally important and critical to success. I’ve learned it’s okay to say “no” sometimes.

What did it mean to you to attend college in New York City?
When I was looking at colleges, I toured everywhere. Once I toured SFC, however, I knew this was where I wanted to go. I loved the atmosphere and energy here. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, so it’s been great living at home and being close to family during my college years. There are also many hospitals in New York City, and different opportunities have come my way as a result of having gone to college here.

What’s next for you?
This summer I plan to take the NCLEX [National Council Licensure Examination] to be able to practice as a registered nurse. Then I will begin looking for a job. I hope to work at a hospital in Manhattan for a couple of years and then go back to school to become a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist.

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