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Mount St. Mary's University marks 210th commencement

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By Kelsi Loos | May 13, 2018

FNP commencement

The old blended with the new at the Mount St. Mary’s University graduation ceremony Sunday as the institution kicked off this year’s graduation season.

The school marked its 210th commencement as it bestowed degrees upon five students in its new forensic accounting program.

Lea Findley was one of those students. When the program was announced, it seemed right up her alley, she said. The Prince George’s County native said she had become interested in investigating financial crimes after she read about embezzlement allegations against one of her local officials. She had already been majoring in accounting and criminal justice when she began to study forensic accounting.

“You learn how to prosecute the bad guys, basically,” she said in a phone interview Saturday. “I feel like I’m really prepared for the workforce now.”

In particular, she said the Mount had given her confidence in public speaking, something that had always made her nervous before.

The graduate said she had already landed a job auditing banks as a financial institution specialist with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Some of her favorite Mount memories included wading through numbers and data to find possible fraud in her forensic data analysis class. She also said she looked back fondly on her tenure as president of the Pan-Africa student group in which she raised money for Education Dabakala, a school in Ivory Coast founded by a Mount alum.

“I didn’t know I could pull that off,” Findley said.

Before Findley and nearly 500 other students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, Saribel Morales-Rivera spoke on behalf of the undergraduates.

Morales-Rivera received the Edward J. Flanagan Memorial Prize, which honors high-achieving student leaders. University president Timothy Trainor said Morales-Rivera, a Puerto Rican immigrant, began her U.S. education enrolled in English as a second language classes. From those humble beginnings, she went on to graduate from the Mount in just three years with the highest GPA in the class and became a Fulbright semi-finalist. She earned a dual major in Spanish and history, Trainor continued, and will pursue a doctorate degree in history at the University of California San Diego.

Morales-Rivera encouraged her fellow students to embrace the changes before them.

“Everything that we will encounter in the real world is a mystery, but that is the fun of life,” she said.

The ceremony, which began with bagpipes and kept with the university’s Catholic tradition by ending with a Benediction, also marked Mother’s Day, which fell on the same day. Morales-Rivera noted that her grandmother had traveled from Puerto Rico for the ceremony.

In a fitting gesture, commencement speaker Agnus Berenato, veteran basketball coach and Mount alumna, presented her daughter Christina Berenato with her degree.

Agnus Berenato encouraged the students to work toward their dreams, even if they fail, using anecdotes from her own experience in basketball. She told the story of a player she coached who was disappointed that she didn’t sink her last-minute shot at a high-stakes game. The girl came over to Berenato upset, saying she had lost the game for the team, but Berenato responded that even in missing the shot, the girl had created the opportunity to win.

Berenato finished her address to the graduates, saying, “One day you will move mountains and write your name across the sky, and on that day we will be proud to say we knew you when.”

Photo courtesy of Graham Cullen of the Frederick News-Post.

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