‘Dream big, baby’: NCCC graduates 206

NCCC criminal justice graduate Abigail Martelle shows off her diploma. Martelle was the student speaker at NCCC’s commencement ceremony. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

SARANAC LAKE — On Saturday morning, 206 students graduated from North Country Community College in a commencement ceremony at the Sparks Athletic Complex.

Among other degrees and certificates, NCCC conferred 53 associate degrees in nursing, 52 certificates in practical nursing, 20 associate degrees in liberal arts and sciences and 17 associate of applied science degrees in radiologic technology.

Speakers at the ceremony encouraged new graduates to continue figuring out their paths in life and chasing their dreams.

“This is an exciting day, as it marks two important events: The attainment of a goal, receiving your degrees and diplomas, and a new beginning. This is your opportunity to set your life’s course,” said faculty speaker Allison Warner, who teaches mathematics and chairs the college senate.

Warner encouraged the graduates to figure out what they value and live according to those values, adding that their opportunities and communities will shape their lives alongside those values.

North Country Community College nursing graduate Kayla Rock flashes a smile during the class of 2024’s procession into commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

“I challenge you today to take chances, explore new opportunities, get involved in your communities, set your intentions based on your values and live a successful and meaningful life, because you have the power to do so,” she said.

This year’s student speaker was Abby Martelle, of Saranac Lake, who graduated with an associate of applied science degree in criminal justice. Martelle also participated in soccer and lacrosse, served as the student trustee on the college’s board of trustees and was this year’s Winter Carnival princess.

Martelle’s speech focused on the ways that NCCC helped her grow as an individual while pursuing her goals.

“When I was young, my mother always gave me one piece of advice: ‘Dream big, baby,'” Martelle said.

Failure was “unimaginable” to Martelle as a child, she said, but when she began college, she started to feel more challenged in school.

North Country Community College nursing graduate Kimberly Fiorentino receives a bouquet of flowers shortly after walking across the stage at commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

“It’s a scary feeling when your back is to the wall and you have all but your own two hands to figure out what you’re going to do next,” she said. “But, there’s something cathartic about knowing that, now you have failed, you have a new opportunity.”

Partway through her journey at NCCC, Martelle changed her major to criminal justice, a decision that she said made her worried that she’d disappointed her mother. It had the opposite effect, however — her mom began to cry when Martelle told her the news, not out of disappointment, but because she was proud Martelle had made the right choice for herself.

“I can stand here and speak for hours and never have the right combination of words to properly explain the importance of allowing yourself to learn who you are,” Martelle said. “It will be difficult. It will be tiring. It will make you question everything you know and it certainly won’t be easy. But when has anything in life worth having been easy?”

Martelle also reflected fondly on her time on the Winter Carnival Court in her speech.

“Have you ever had a child worriedly ask you if you’re going to be homeless when the Ice Palace is knocked down? No? Just me?” she said “And, I hate to break the news, but I’m also not Elsa (from ‘Frozen’).”

North Country Community College nursing graduate Emily Wojewodzic smiles during NCCC’s commencement on Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

The crowd gave Martelle a standing ovation following her speech.

Commencement speaker Linda McClarigan, described as a “force of nature” by NCCC President Joseph Keegan, shared lessons she learned from 50 years of nursing in her speech. A graduate of NCCC’s nursing program, McClarigan went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in nursing at SUNY Plattsburgh and a Master’s of Science in healthcare administration from California College for Health Sciences. She served as Adirondack Health’s chief nursing officer from 2012 until her retirement in 2019.

“This local community college and amazing faculty are the reasons for my success,” McClarigan said. “I’m sharing my story with you because your personal and professional goals in life may take time. Mine did. But it can be done, and thanks to my family, networking and building relationships over the years, my dreams did come true, and so can yours.”

McClarigan shared that early in her career she worked as a nurse’s aid, working full-time on the night shift in the intensive care unit, all while raising five children and working toward her associate’s degree at NCCC, which she earned in 1990. She told graduates to keep asking themselves the hard questions about what they want out of life and to never stop pursuing their goals.

“You can Google for an answer about anything,” she said. “You can Google for a mate; you can Google for career opportunities. But you can’t Google to find out what’s in your heart, and the passion that lifts you upwards to be successful in both your personal and professional lives.”

North Country Community College alumna Linda McClarigan delivers the commencement speech at commencement on Saturday. That weekend marked McClarigan’s 50th anniversary of becoming a nurse. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

McClarigan said that when she earned her Master’s degree online 20 years ago, she was unable to attend her commencement ceremony. Standing before the packed gymnasium at NCCC, she finally got to wear her Master’s regalia and celebrate her academic achievements with others.

“Keep working, keep dreaming and keep living life to the fullest,” she said.

NCCC graduates turn their tassels. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)

Country Community College Student speaker and student trustee Abby Martelle, left, and other members of the Class of 2024 make their way to commencement. (Photo provided — NCCC)

North Country Community College President Joe Keegan speaks at the NCCC commencement ceremony Saturday. (Enterprise photo — Sydney Emerson)


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