Nursing Student Overcomes Adversity to Graduate as Salutatorian of the Class of 2011 at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus
May 12 commencement ceremony to recognize the achievements of 1,801 graduates
Alka Gupta,Assistant Director of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. – A college education has long been her dream, but graduating as the salutatorian for the Class of 2011 at Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus seems like a fantasy to 44-year-old Deanine M. Copeland.
“From where I started to where I am now, it almost seems surreal,” the Queens resident said, reacting to being named salutatorian, the second-highest rank among the 761 students who will receive undergraduate degrees at the Brooklyn Campus commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 12, 2011.
A total of 1,801 students will receive degrees during the exercises, where New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and address the audience.
Copeland's journey has indeed been long and arduous. She recalled a tumultuous childhood, moving often and growing up in a broken household where domestic violence was often prevalent. She attended at least 10 elementary schools.
On her own since age 17, Copeland was accepted into college after high school and has taken courses over the years, but she never could afford to stay in school. The oldest of four, she maintained steady employment to help support her siblings.
“I am no stranger to tough times,” said Copeland, who will receive a bachelor's of science in nursing. “Adversity early on has taught me to make do with life's necessities, while making a healthy distinction between needs and wants.”
Copeland has held a number of what she described as “decent, yet unfulfilling jobs,” including work as an office clerk, secretary and word processor. To improve her marketability, Copeland taught herself computers and graphic arts. She has been a word processing operator at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed law firm since 2002.
It was something her mother said just before she died of breast cancer in 2004 that inspired Copeland to return to school. Copeland's mother told her that she wished that she had pursued her own dreams.
“It was too late for her, but for myself, those were my sentiments too,” recalled Copeland. “I had a list of things I wanted to do – each birthday I felt incomplete.”
Interested in working in the health field, Copeland focused on nursing, she said, because “I realized that nurses have the most face time with patients and the best opportunity to make a difference.” She chose Long Island University for its reputation for academic excellence and flexible scheduling.
“It was one of only a few schools with a nursing program designed to accommodate working students,” Copeland said.
She worked the graveyard shift at Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, while attending the Brooklyn Campus School of Nursing, eventually earning a grade point average of 3.74. Copeland has received several other academic honors, including induction into the Alpha Lambda Delta and Alpha Chi national academic honor societies.
Copeland has also donated her time to the community as a New York Cares Volunteer/Team Leader, serving on projects that feed, clothe and care for the sick, impoverished and homebound citizens.
“I thought I was all grown up before I got here,” said Copeland. “I found out there was so much more to me – LIU helped me find my voice. I know I can do things and am confident and secure in my abilities.”
In the future, she hopes to work as a nurse in emergency preparedness and disaster relief efforts. But as far as the present, she noted, “I feel like my soul is very happy and contented right now.”
The Brooklyn Campus is distinguished by…
dynamic curricula reflecting the great urban community it serves. Distinctive programs encompass the arts and media, the natural sciences, business, social policy, urban education, the health professions and pharmacy, and include the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, the Ph.D. in Pharmaceutics, the D.P.T. in Physical Therapy and the Pharm.D. in Pharmacy. A vibrant urban oasis in downtown Brooklyn, this diverse and thriving campus offers academic excellence, personalized attention, small class size and flexible course schedules. In 2006, a $45-million Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center was opened to serve the Campus and the surrounding community. In 2007, the Cyber Café was launched, providing a high-tech hot spot for students and faculty members to meet and eat.
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