Touro College graduation at Citi Field

By Queens Courier Staff |

For a woman that overcame a softball-sized tumor in her chest – a speech in front of around 10,000 people was a walk in the park.

Sabrina Gordin, 33, sat outside on a bench in front of Citi Field before her commencement ceremony began that day, trying to calm her nerves.

But she’s faced bigger challenges than speaking in front of a throng of people – the tumor that was once between her lungs is now gone and she’s a step closer to becoming a school psychologist.

The Staten Island native was one of seven student speakers at Touro College’s Division of Graduate Studies commencement ceremony on Tuesday, June 14.

Of the 3,000 graduates, Gordin was chosen as a student speaker because of her perseverance and will to complete the three-year program despite her health problems. She balanced a busy graduate schedule of exams and term papers with chemotherapy appointments.

“She had this mentality that she wanted to do as much as she possibly could until her performance at her classes was affected,” said Dr. Dominick Fortugno, director of the school psychology program who chose Gordin to speak at the ceremony.

With a shrug as if the day never happened, Gordin recounted when she felt a pain in her chest and then was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It happened just before the start of her second year in the school psychology program in August 2009.

Even though Fortugno and others suggested she take a leave of absence, Gordin decided she wanted to continue with her studies. But it wasn’t easy.

“School has always come pretty easy for me and never have I been able to study for a test,” she said. Her chemotherapy treatments made it difficult for her to remember facts for a test she studied for or concentrate to research and organize details for a 30-page term paper.

Aside from the physical effects of her chemotherapy treatments that she went to every other week, Gordin said she couldn’t have made it through school without the immense support from her friends at Touro.

“My fellow graduates were the people that held my hand through the whole thing,” she said. One of her friends came with her to every treatment session and stayed with her the entire time.

Gordin received a Masters of Science in school psychology. The school also graduated students from its Jewish studies, business, technology, social work, health sciences, psychology and education graduate schools.

The day’s ceremony also featured speeches from student speakers from each of the graduate schools before the main speaker, Dr. Charlotte K. Frank, senior vice president of research and development at McGraw-Hill Education.

Gordin emphasized in her speech the importance of perseverance and everlasting friendships.

“I am living proof in the words of the immortal John Lennon that ‘I get by with a little help from my friends,’” she said.