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171 graduate from Bramson ORT

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They hailed from all different backgrounds — a veterinarian from Albania to a mother from Far Rockaway— but for one night the students from Bramson ORT College in Forest Hills all had something in common: They were graduating and despite tough economic times shared a hope the degree would bring them the future about which they once only dreamed.

More than 300 people packed the Forest Hills Jewish Center Monday night to cheer on the 171 Bramson ORT graduates — the largest class the two-year technical school has ever seen. The majority of the graduates were immigrants, and many of them began taking classes at Bramson knowing little or no English, such as Valbona Kaca, who moved from Peshkopi, Albania, to Brooklyn on the very same day in 2005.

“To think just four years ago I came as an Albanian immigrant, not knowing a word of English, and now I stand before you as the valedictorian of Bramson ORT,” Kaca said, after which the audience, which included her husband and 15- and 10-year-old sons, broke into a raucous round of applause.

Kaca, like many of the graduates, said earning her degree in medical assistance was a dream come true. She hopes to find a job in a veterinary office — work she knows well since she earned a bachelor’s in veterinary science in Albania.

Many of the graduates of Bramson ORT, which has campuses on Austin Street in Forest Hills and in Brooklyn, majored in business management, electronic technology and medical assistance, according to the school’s admissions coordinator, Martha Tucker, who also teaches English and business at the school.

Far Rockaway resident Kelly Garcia, 27, said it is especially important for students to continue their education to survive in a trying economic environment. Garcia, who went to school full time while raising her 4-year-old daughter, Ashlee, got her associate’s degree in administrative assistance and plans to go to school for her bachelor’s in human resources.

“It was hard, and I had to be really dedicated,” Garcia said. “I would go to school in the morning and then rush to get Ashlee from school. Then I would have to do my homework while still spending time with her. But it was worth it.”

The individuals who addressed students at the ceremony, including National Healthcareer Association Director Jim Foti and Capital Health Management and Boro Medical President Robert Acquino, said the students face daunting barriers — high unemployment and a mangled health care system.

“For those of you entering health care, you are entering a system that is broken,” Foti said. “One out of six Americans are without insurance. Regardless of the weight of the problem, the solution lies within you. You are the only viable solution to a lopsided situation. We need your skills.”

Daniel Afrahim, a 24-year-old alumnus of the college who moved from Iran to Flushing in 2003, urged students to find a career they loved.

“Do not do a job, just any job,” said Afrahim, now a Web and graphic designer. “Be passionate about it.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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