Brad Bowers

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.

It matters that you don't just give up.

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!

Courtney Szachacz

Good evening, graduates, family, teachers, and staff. I’d like to start by congratulating the class of 2018. We worked hard, studied hard, and persevered. This begins a new chapter in our lives. So enjoy the ride.

So for those of you who know me, you know I have a tendency to get emotional and cry, so for your sake, I’ll try to keep the tears at a minimum. But since I just found out today that I got hired at Northwell Cardiology and Internal Medicine and have been in tears most of the day, it’s not looking too promising.

My journey through Hunter was definitely not what I thought it would be. I had not been in school for 19 years, and the idea of returning was terrifying, but I knew if I wanted a better future I had to make a change.

Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

To say that my first day was horrible would be an understatement. My anxiety just driving to school was almost too much.

Although scrubs, in my opinion, are one of the greatest creations ever, they wrinkle. For fear of looking like a mess, the process of getting into a position to drive to school took 20 minutes.

The girls in my class were much younger than me, and I feared they would never think of me as an equal. Then it got worse.

My first teacher was Mr. Santos. I don’t think I breathed for the whole three hours of this class or maybe even the whole module.

I was never going to be able to do this. I literally cried every day on the way home from school. I was 36 and felt like I was 10. This was pretty much how my whole first week went.

But I kept going, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle started to fit. The girls who I thought were never going to like me became like sisters I never had. They entertained my sometimes strange conversations and made me laugh every day. Without them I never would have been able to do this. I love each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart, and you will always be like family to me.

Mr. Santos actually smiled…once…I think…but the jury is still out on that one.

Victor entertained my fear of being late when I started showing up before him to open up the school at 6:45 in the morning.

Billy Mac would give me the positive quote of the day.

Dr. Reza—who happens to have the best smelling soap ever made—would always amaze me with his intelligence and baffle me how someone so smart could never figure out how to use his phone.

Of course, my mornings and days would never have been the same without my partner in crime, Brianna. For the most part, where she was, I was; and wherever I was, she was.

In the morning on every break and after school, we had our own therapy session. Just like that, I fell into a routine, and Hunter became my “happy place.” I even got Lisa to hug me, which if you don’t know, is not an easy feat.

No matter what the situation, good or bad, there was always someone who would be there to support and guide me through.

I do have to say a special thank you to Mrs. Evans. Everything was just better when she was around, which is why I probably donated more veins for venipuncture and lost more blood than I ever will for the rest of my life.

She eventually wouldn’t let me donate anymore. And although I didn’t give her much choice, she gave in when I decided my day would not be complete if I didn’t have at least one hug or two—maybe on a bad day, three. This is why I will be paying for her chiropractor for the rest of my life.

She made me feel that no matter what, I was good enough just the way I am. Without her, none of this would’ve been the same. I am forever grateful to her.

We all had our own experience at Hunter, but we all share one thing in common. We have been given the tools in our chosen field to succeed. We have gained knowledge, maturity, and compassion. We are all better people because of it.

In a world full of turmoil and divide, we can make a difference. No matter what color, sex, or religion you believe in, we all are humans. Love and kindness is without prejudice.

We can all be the person to make a change. This goes not only for we as graduates, but for every person in this room and outside. Everyone wants to be loved and understood. It’s human nature and is our right as individuals.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said,

Keep your thoughts positive because your thought become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.