Insight: Approximate time reading this post: 6 minutes
I’m just sitting here on a Sunday night trying to think of a way to start this post about something I never really wanted to end. As much as I have exasperated talking about my experience at PVCC, it is still difficult to find the words but also find few words to talk about how much that college really means to me. To find a happy middle, here’s a song Claire recently shared with me that is quite different from what I have heard before and a graduation speech I wrote this year.
This song, “Introduction: Nothingness” by Hayden Calnin, is eye opening when it comes to understanding change, transitions, and a few other normal aspects of life that seem anything but. It explains in the most vague way my thoughts on these past three years coming to an end, but a happy end. Give it a listen, full blast, anywhere quiet, both headphones in, every word; it won’t disappoint.
As always, thanks for reading and listening, I hope you enjoy my speech titled “Beyond the Judgement,” happy graduation and happy change to everyone who is doing something a little different with their lives at the moment (keep reading).
Beyond the Judgement
I would say that three years ago, I was probably the last student anyone ever expected at Shadow Mountain High School to audition as a speaker on the night of my 2013 graduation. I was shy but observant and a loyal geek in the marching band, so I never attempted to stick out like a sore thumb. But after writing a required AP English commencement speech in a final Senior project, I decided to audition with it. Unfortunately, I was not picked to speak on the night of graduation and the judges later revealed this was only because they were uncertain of my "lacking stage presence”. Instead they judged me on my appearance and quiet demeanor rather than the content of my words; still shooting me while I've been down for the past four years in the emotional roller coaster of high school. But all is forgiven because this is a slightly bigger crowd anyways.
So tonight I would like to thank you first for this opportunity, second for believing in the value of our education, and third for all of the graduates here tonight in pushing their personal boundaries of self-growth and in their dedication to better the world we live in.
After four years of integrating with my close-knit, high school marching band friends, I needed to find a new sanctuary here at PVCC and fast. For my first two months at this college I contemplated dropping out of school entirely because I felt such a deep disconnection and without much effort, might I admit. But it didn’t take long for me to realize just how much learning outside the classroom could impact my education. I soon stumbled upon the student leadership program and joined the Student Government, maintaining my position as their secretary for the next two years. While in student leadership, we changed the title of the “Student Leadership Council” to “Student Government”, organized and hosted countless events, updated multiple parts of our program in general, and set our students as a top priority. In the meantime, I also wrote articles regarding campus life in my year-long editorship for the Puma Press, maintained a part-time job, attempted a social life, and took over 16 college credits each semester. Here I also found out just how imperative it is to do more with less along with the price you pay for being involved. In this period of my life I had my fair share of memorable mental breakdowns, as I am sure many of you have experienced yourselves.
But through the many opportunities that this college is basically throwing at you with full force, it is of the utmost importance to never take them with a grain of salt. I can say that I am undoubtedly grateful for the opportunities that the Student Life and Leadership office offered me while I searched for a new community to call my own. I have become the best version of my young 21-year-old self and I give PVCC full credit for this.
But as much as I can stand up here and talk about my own fulfilled life at PVCC, this isn't just about me, it's about this whole community. Last time I checked, we are not sitting here on a Friday night, in our caps and gowns, to hear me talk about myself. And with this in mind, I’ve realized that our community college does not exist to only cater the individual but to teach the individual how to positively cater to their community.
Unlike my high school judges, I have learned to not only see you as fellow classmates, but human beings struggling with more than just your next exam. I've watched as many of you endure the endless academic stress, heartbreak, mental breakdowns, financial struggles and that feeling of "if I just sleep in a little longer I will be late for class, but I can get through this day and possibly statistics". But to see you all here on the night of commencement and having overcome every possible obstacle that whispered the word “defeat” throughout your college experience, I can say that I'm truly proud of all of you.
Now that you have come this far, go show your judges why they were wrong about you, Congratulations Paradise Valley Community College class of 2016.