Brad Bowers

Levittown

Ladies and gentlemen, faculty and staff, and of course, fellow Hunter graduates.

You probably think that I am nervous. I know it can be really nerve-racking being a big group of people watching someone speak. So, if it helps at all, just picture me in my underwear. I’m secure!

My journey here has been a long one, with many twists and turns. As you can tell, I’m a bit older than the typical graduate. It has taken me many years and lots of mistakes to finally be making good, intelligent decisions. Deciding to enroll at Hunter Business School was one of those decisions.

At a time when our society is faced with all the tragedies that come with the struggles of addiction, I stand before you today a product of a lot of work, dedication, infinite amounts of patience, and a seemingly never-ending ocean of love and support. There is a team of people behind the scenes that have helped me become one of the best versions of myself I have ever been.

There are a good number of people, both in and out of the school, that know I am an alcoholic and know how much this experience has meant and continues to mean to me. None of them judged. No one shied away. Nobody laughed or made me feel less than, and for that, I am truly grateful.

And I am proud to say I now have one year and five months clean and sober.

My experience at Hunter from day one has been nothing but amazing for me. I first saw Dana and the rest of the staff waiting for me—and the rest of the new students—to welcome us and show us the way to our first class. And I remember thinking, “Now I’ve been to college, and this stuff doesn’t usually happen. What kind of weird place is this?”

But I soon found out (and just about right away) what kind of place it is when I got to the first class and met Lisa and Mr. S. Lisa is a sweetheart, but you know it’s a class, so respect it. That woman has seen some things!

Mr. S., who I wish were here tonight, became a favorite of mine right off the bat. Stern and serious, very brilliant, and at times a little intimidating. But, man, could he hammer home medical terms.

Dr. Bains was very giving of her time and knowledge and is unmatched in the style department.

Dr. Reza—a fan favorite. It’s actually hard to put Dr. Reza into words. He is as funny as he is intelligent and just has a great heart.

Kim, who now works in Medford, had to teach us billing and coding. Ugh! Sorry, Kim. I wish I had you again. That class was still fun.

Victor taught us about ethics and a lot about ourselves. He is kind and dedicated and almost as funny as I am. Thanks for making a relatively boring subject fun!

Mrs. Evans is my Hunter mom. We had, I think, four classes with her. She saw my first venipuncture and many more. We got to know her well, and let me just say she is definitely one with an ocean of patience. In my book, she is still going to be the best “little old lady” one day!

It is truly an honor to be here and to be speaking tonight.

Congratulations to all the Hunter grads, and thank you to all the loved ones that made it here. Like, whatever, it’s just graduation…no big deal. Come or don’t come. Whatever. Don’t buy it. We are all truly psyched you’re here.

Don’t forget Mrs. Romano, Mrs. Santos, and Jody.

Thank you so much, and have a great night!

It matters that you don't just give up.

Leah Algeria

Medford

I would like to start out by thanking Meri Marone for giving me this opportunity to speak to all of you tonight. I am honored to be a part of Hunter Business School.

When I started at Hunter I did not really know where my life was heading. I had hit a lot of unforeseen obstacles. Because of these obstacles, I wound up getting help from the Department of Social Services.

The opportunity to go to Hunter came to me through the system. I openly accepted, knowing that it would help me change my life, but I was scared, excited, nervous, and worried all at the same time. It was a huge step for me but turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

Through my 12 weeks I met some amazing people. Diane Trentadue was my teacher for the Medical Billing Specialist program. Diane, thank you for teaching us all we needed to know and for being honest, funny, and real. You made class enjoyable and academic. I speak on behalf of the whole class when I say thank you for being you and for working such long days with us.

I want also to give a quick thank you to Jenny who was student teaching with Diane. Jenny you gave us all some really great advice, and we appreciate that.

I would like to thank Meri Marone for fighting for me to get a job. Meri sent my résumé all over. She worked endlessly with me knowing my situation and that I needed a job ASAP.

But, most of all, I want to thank all of my classmates for making my time at Hunter not only enjoyable, but memorable. I can honestly say we had a room full of kind, warm-helping hearts. We were friends in and out of class.

Hunter Business School not only gave me the opportunity to grow as an individual to better my life for my kids but also gave me friends for life. It was an experience I will never forget.

Present day my boys are able to get up and go to morning care so I can go to work. They got to see what building yourself up looks like. They can be proud of the life they have, and they are able to see that hard work and dedication pay off.

And maybe, just maybe, Mommy actually knows what she’s talking about. They both helped me study for my tests and now they get to see me speaking to all of you. That is the best thing Hunter Business School has given me.

Finally I would like to leave you with this thought. Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. The harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.

Stephen Hawking said, “So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.