Throughout their years at St. Joseph’s, Courtney Cowie-Sladky and Sarah Erin Griffiths took to heart the College’s motto: Esse non videri — “To be, not to seem” — demonstrating their understanding of integrity through their actions in their everyday lives.
And while their time at SJC Long Island has come to an end, they still demonstrate these understandings in their new careers — and in the speeches they’re set to deliver at commencement Wednesday, May 29, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Undergraduate speaker Courtney Cowie-Sladky, 23, and graduate speaker Sarah Erin Griffiths, 28, wrote their speeches following the theme of integrity in personal and professional life. They will deliver their speeches to the Class of 2019 — the College’s 100th graduating class — as well as faculty, staff, family and friends. It’s a crowd expected to number in the thousands.
“When I was asked if I’d like to apply to be the undergraduate speaker, I felt my chances were low—there were many other highly qualified students applying,” Cowie-Sladky said. “But I decided to just try, and well, it happened! I am supremely grateful.”
As a transfer student from Suffolk County Community College, Cowie-Sladky made it a point to get involved in the SJC community. She helped gain the international honor society of education Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) a chapter on campus, becoming the vice president after its September 2017 inception. Cowie-Sladky also served as a member of Sigma Tau Delta, an international excelled English honor society, and the English Club.
The Commack, New York, native also excelled academically. She presented in April 2018 at Longwood University’s Meeting in the Middle Conference, a niche conference for students studying the Medieval period. Later that month, she presented at Oneonta’s New Critics Conference, where she also chaired a panel there. And she delivered a presentation at SJC Long Island’s Student Research Symposium in May 2018.
“SJC has provided me with every resource available to help me succeed,” Cowie-Sladky said. “The teachers are absolutely wonderful! Without Dr. (Margaret) Moss and Dr. (Susan) Nakley, I would certainly not be where I am today. They taught me essentially everything I needed to know, helped me find the areas I am interested in, and encouraged me to pursue all my goals.”
In the midst of all her academics and extracurricular involvements, Cowie-Sladky married her longtime boyfriend Bobby Sladky in April 2018.
“It was certainly difficult balancing work, school and my religion, all while planning a wedding,” she said. “I was married on a Saturday and back in class that Monday. Oh, and I had pink-eye and viral tonsillitis, too. Then my unit plan was due a week later. The spring 2018 semester was probably the most challenging weeks of my college career. I was more stressed than anything, but I still kept my 4.0!”
Cowie-Sladky is a leave-replacement English teacher for grades 8 and 9 at Valley Stream South High School. She’s looking for a full-time job for September.
Seriously can’t wait for @SJCNY orientation tomorrow. SCHOOL IS SO SOON!!!!!!!!
— Court Cowie (@xcourterrsx) August 23, 2016
Feeling really tripped out that I’m not a college student anymore like I spent years writing essays reading stories and crying and like it’s all over I did it all and am now a teacher just like ??????
— Court Cowie (@xcourterrsx) May 13, 2019
“I chose St. Joseph’s because I heard it was the best teaching school on Long Island,” Griffiths said. “In addition, I enjoyed that the campus was small and easy to navigate.”
Griffiths, who now teaches fourth grade at the Harbor Country Day School in St. James, New York, graduated with her master’s degree in June 2018 with a 3.9 GPA.
“My favorite memory as a master’s student would definitely have to be the practicum course,” Griffiths said. “I truly loved coming to campus and working with a student who was a struggling reader. It taught me so much about literacy and how to support children with reading skills. I’ll never forget the little boy I spent an entire semester with. I hope I made an impact on his life.”
When she found out she would be the graduate speaker at commencement, Griffiths was shocked.
“I feel as if it is such a fantastic accomplishment for myself, and it is an absolute honor to be chosen as the graduate speaker for commencement,” the Selden, New York, native said.
Griffiths plans to use what she learned at St. Joseph’s to eventually land a job at a public school, hoping to get her foot in the door for future career opportunities.
“SJC has taught me how to be a great and confident educator in so many ways,” she said. “I remember taking a course with Dr. (Shawn) Roberston — I’ve taken many with him, both undergrad and grad. He taught us how to use various websites that were classroom friendly that I still use today. You might think since you were brought up with technology that there isn’t much more to learn. Dr. Roberston broke that bias opinion. I appreciate the professors at SJC every day.”