Brandeé Dordal’s mother knew her daughter was destined for greatness as soon as she came into the world. She named her Brandeé as she joyfully exclaimed that it was “a brand-new day!”
Since then, Brandeé Dordal has been spending her days studying—and excelling—at every level. At 19, she is the youngest graduate of St. John’s University’s Class of 2022.
When first informed of her unique designation, she responded with aplomb: “That is cool! I didn’t know I was the youngest.”
The Brooklyn, NY, native, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, has always been an advanced student with a laser-like focus on getting things completed. She finished high school at the age of 16 by taking extra classes during her lunch period, as well as college-level courses offered at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Beginning her undergraduate journey at St. John’s Staten Island, NY, campus, Ms. Dordal completed two years there before transferring to the Queens, NY, campus for her third and final year. She completed her undergraduate course load in an accelerated manner by taking multiple semesters of 18 credits and accessing College Board CLEP exams to test out of introductory courses and move to more advanced courses sooner.
“The COVID-19 year was an extra challenge as I am a very hands-on and visual learner, but being at the Queens campus full-time for my final year was wonderful,” she said.
As a middle school student, Ms. Dordal was bullied and experienced discrimination due to her race and sexual orientation. During high school she was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome—a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that cannot be easily controlled—and attracted unwanted attention.
Determined to overcome her challenges, Ms. Dordal immersed herself in her academics. While in high school, she began therapy and focused on the study of psychology. At St. John’s, Ms. Dordal became even more self-aware, made new friends, and began to see how some of her innate skills and talents can be transferred into a career path.
“I have always been good with children,” she explains. “My younger brother has some special needs and there was a young boy on my block with autism that I always had a special connection with. My goal is to help children who may not have the words, ability, or resources to help themselves.”
“Brandeé was a wonderful student and a pleasure to have in my Research Methods class,” stated Elizabeth Brondolo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, and Director, Collaborative Health Integration Research Program. “She was not afraid to ask questions, and the questions she asked helped other students learn more. She worked in a highly active way to apply the ideas and skills she was learning in class to her own experience.”
Ms. Dordal plans to spend the next year volunteering and preparing for graduate studies and an eventual doctoral program in psychology. She is considering studying to be a Board-certified behavioral analyst.
With a long-term goal of becoming a child psychologist, the youngest graduate of St. John’s class this year generously provides advice to aspiring students. “You will find your way while at St. John’s. Go to office hours; the professors are there to help you build relationships with them and others. You will find a community at St. John’s. It might take time, but you will find it. You are cared about at St. John’s.”