Then and Now: Graduating Senior Life on Campus

NEWBURGH – COVID-19 cases in the United States were on an uptick when Kylie Dragonetti of Massapequa, N.Y. began her college career at Mount Saint Mary College on August 20, 2020.

Now with graduation on the horizon, Dragonetti pondered how much has changed over the last four years.

Her family helped her move into her room at Sakac Hall on campus about four days before the start of the semester. Dragonetti and the other freshmen were among the first students to set foot on campus since the Mount had first gone virtual in March of 2020.

Mixing the uncertainty of the pandemic with the excitement of starting a new chapter in their lives was a lot for Dragonetti and her classmates to handle, she said.

Mount Saint Mary College Nursing major Kylie Dragonetti of Massapequa, N.Y., seen here in the college’s theatre, will graduate on Saturday, May 18. Photo: Lee Ferris
Mount Saint Mary College Nursing major Kylie Dragonetti of Massapequa, N.Y., seen here in the college’s theatre, will graduate on Saturday, May 18. Photo: Lee Ferris

“It was really hard adjusting to this new part of my life while having to remain mostly inside my dorm room, but it was also very difficult seeing what the pandemic was doing to people all around the world,” she explained. “I was very fortunate that I didn’t lose anyone to the pandemic and was able to still go to college, but that can’t be said for everyone.”

Despite the circumstances, Dragonetti knew she was in the right place at the right time. On the day she moved in, she said, “As soon as I set foot on the campus the first time, I said ‘Oh my gosh, this is definitely the right college.’ Everyone is so nice, there’s beautiful scenery, and the Nursing program has a great reputation. Nothing compares to Mount Saint Mary.”

As the pandemic started losing steam, the Nursing major and her classmates enjoyed an increasingly more traditional campus life. By the start of her sophomore year, Dragonetti was having the college experience she had always dreamed of when she was in high school.

“I was absolutely ecstatic when we transitioned into normal college life where I was able to branch out and meet new people,” Dragonetti said. “I found the people I was meant to find and, maybe if things were different, I would never have found them or [become] the person I am today. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I’m so glad I was able to experience my college life the way I did.”

For Dragonetti, the return to normality included earning a place on the Dean’s List and joining the Get Creative Club on campus, which focuses on building artistic skills. But it was the college’s theatre group that would have the biggest impact on her, she noted.

“When I’m on that stage, I feel like I have all the confidence in the world,” Dragonetti said. “There was one instance, first semester of junior year, when I had at least 20 friends and family in the audience watching me perform. I can’t explain the feeling I had when the curtain call came around. I heard the loudest cheering I have ever heard, and it was my friends and family cheering for me.”

The end of her college journey is near, but there’s little time for Dragonetti to rest. As she finishes her classes, she’s also concentrating on studying for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which Nursing graduates around the nation must pass in order to become a licensed nurse. Thankfully, the statistics are on her side: Last quarter, more than 96 percent of the Mount students passed the NCLEX, which is well above the national standard.

Once she’s licensed, Dragonetti hopes to work in the emergency room, pediatrics, or obstetrics.

Looking back at her time at the Mount, Dragonetti will miss the Mount’s stunning views of the Hudson River, going to Hudson Taco and Billy Joe’s Ribworks on the Newburgh waterfront, acting in the Mount theatre productions, and the lifelong friends she’s made these last four years.

“I’ll miss the learning too,” she added. “But I know with a career like nursing, I’ll always be learning something new.”

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