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Commencement Speakers Announced

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (May 6, 2010) – This spring, Nicole Immerso led the charge to make more SUNY Plattsburgh students eligible to speak during commencement.

Now she herself has been selected as one of two speakers for the May 15 ceremonies.

Nicole Immerso

The hotel, restaurant and tourism management major will deliver the address at the 10 a.m. ceremony for students graduating with degrees in business, education, health and human services. Benjamin Pomerance, a double major in journalism and political science, will give the address at the 2 p.m. ceremony for students from the college's arts and science programs. Both ceremonies will take place at the college's Field House.

Immerso, of Island Park, N.Y., is known on campus as the student behind the change in student-speaker eligibility requirements. Previously, students needed to earn high honors (a grade point average of at least 3.7) before they could apply to be a commencement speaker, but Immerso worked within the system to open up eligibility requirements. She did research, lobbied the Honors Council and the Student Association and wrote to SUNY Plattsburgh President John Ettling.

And before she knew it, the rules had changed. Now graduating students who have earned any level of honors (GPA 3.4 or higher) can submit a speech.

As elated as she was with the change, Immerso had no idea that she would be selected as speaker. First, she, like everyone else, had to submit a speech.

Stripped of names, those speeches were reviewed individually by the Honors Council and Student Association representatives. Votes were tallied and reviewed. Names were released only after the council had unanimously endorsed the outcome of the votes.

"The council was surprised and delighted that Nicole Immerso's speech was one of those selected," said Dr. David Mowry, SUNY distinguished teaching professor and director of the Honors Program. "… Nicole rose to the occasion by submitting an excellent speech, and we are very pleased with the outcome."

In addition to being on the dean's list and earning a GPA of 3.56, Immerso has served as vice president of two honor societies and participated in three Alternative Break programs, traveling across the country doing community service. She has also hosted Plattsburgh State TV's "Open Eye" and News Briefs; held several offices with Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority; served as a cheerleader; participated in Ringing Down the Curtain; and raised money for the Relay for Life and Up 'til Dawn.

Pomerance has had a litany of experiences during his four years at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Benjamin Pomerance
The Plattsburgh native, who has maintained a 3.99 GPA, interviewed baseball star Johnny Podres and had his work published in the New York Daily News. He wrote a one-act play, edited All Points North, danced in the Nutcracker Suite, spoke at the National Press Club, took part in musical and theatrical performances, earned a SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence and won more than a dozen scholarships for academics, leadership and community service.

But he is most proud of his work for the community.

"Living here all of my life, I've heard plenty of negative comments from people in the community about 'the college kids do this' and 'the college kids do that,'" said Pomerance. "And any work that I've done to perhaps rebuild that bridge between the campus and the community is something that I feel very strongly about."

His volunteer work has included bringing former major league pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee for a anti-malaria fundraiser, and raising money for the Relay for Life, the American Heart Association, regional theater, and more.

Part of the secret to his success may be the attitude he has taken toward reaching for his dreams.

"If you feel there is something you should pursue, pursue it and pursue with all the energy and passion you have," said Pomerance. "Fear no locked door. Just go out and try to do it, knowing that it might happen, but knowing that even if it doesn't, you've given it your best shot."

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