Mohamed Gabriel is the recipient of the Joseph J. Cooligan Award, the Edmond P. Garvey Award, the Professor Paul B. Thornton Leadership Excellence Scholarship, and the Robert M. Pasini Memorial Scholarship at STCC. He is graduating from STCC next week with an Associate Degree in Engineering and Science Transfer and was a featured speaker at the spring 2019 Scholarship and Awards Breakfast. These are his remarks.
It’s a pleasure to be here and an honor to speak in front of all of you. Congratulations to all the outstanding students that are here today. And of course, a shout-out to your families and friends who support you everyday. And thank you to the donors whose generosity we are grateful for.
Let me tell you a little bit about myself.
My name is Mohamed, I’m an Engineering and Science Transfer major, and I am currently at the end of both my careers as a STCC student and as the President of the Student Government. I’ll be graduating in a week with an Associate Degree. It’s such an overwhelming feeling. I have been a student at STCC since the Spring of 2016, after being away from school for almost 6 years, and pretty much a lifetime of immigration, from Africa, to Asia, to America!
When I started, I had only been in this country for about 5 months, so you can imagine how lost I felt. But I didn’t stay lost for long, because my family, my aunts and cousins, and my wonderful wife, stood by me and supported me through everything.
It wasn’t just them, since I first stepped foot on this campus and showed my eagerness to learn, the staff and faculty at STCC have showed me nothing but support and encouragement.
The STCC community has helped me academically and supported me non-academically, and I am forever grateful to each and every one of you.
We are all here for the same purpose, and that is to earn an education. Whether it’s an associate degree that you want to use to transfer and further your education, or it’s a certificate, or a class, or a skill, or even a hobby. We are here to gain knowledge. And you all being here today tells me that you’re pretty good at it!
But a lot of times life gets in the way, and it either slows us down, or may not allow us to fulfill our full potential, or unfortunately sometimes it even stops us.
And one of these challenges, and perhaps the biggest, is affordability. I know I need to go to school to get that job or that promotion, but can I afford to?
And that is why we are grateful for the donors and the STCC Foundation, that make these scholarships available; which we can take advantage of and continue to invest more time and effort to make our education a success.
On my second year, I heard about scholarships, at first I thought, “nah, I don’t think I’ll get any,” but then I was like why not try? And I did. I went and applied to as many as I could, and ended up getting not 1, but 6 scholarships!
So I knew that now I can worry a little less about the financial aspect of school, and focus more on my academics. But that’s not enough, so the next year, I ran for the position of vice president, and then served as president of Student Government for 2 terms. I also got a job on campus as a Supplemental Instruction Leader, or SI, with the best boss ever, Jane Lerner (who by the way turned out to be a great resource for reference letters).
So at that point, I knew I could finally quit my job at the retail store I worked at. And since then, I’ve been basically living on campus, dedicating all my time to serving the STCC community in any way possible.
I believe that it’s important to not only take the opportunities given to us, but also pay it forward in our own way.
These scholarships have allowed me to do more than I imagined as a “non-traditional” college student at a community college. I believe that happened for a reason. So I took it upon myself to give back as much as I can and make the best out of this opportunity. And I want to ask you to do the same.
Whatever major or field you go into after this, remember to give back. Remember to fight for those who don’t have. Remember to stand up for what is right. Remember to be the voice of the voiceless.
Use your knowledge, your voice, and your privileges, to benefit those who may not have those things. So, no matter where you go, no matter where you end up, always stand up for what is right, always stand up to oppression, always be the voice of the voiceless.
Be the employee that demands equal pay for your colleague.
Be the friend that stands beside theirs against the bullies of this world.
Be the just voice when you see injustice.
Be the activist that demands an end to police brutality against Black bodies, because black lives matter!
Be the change maker who stands up for immigrants.
Be the environmentalist that demands that we still have a world to live in in 30 years.
Be the believer that stands up against religious discrimination.
Be the ally that stands up for the LGBTQ+ communities.
Be the law that works to end the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans in this country.
Be the citizen that votes for the candidate that will truly help make the world a better place.
Be the volunteer that helps build our communities.
Be the change you want to see, the one we all NEED to see in this world.
Because believe it or not, we are ALL in this together, and every single one of you matters.
And it doesn’t matter what field you’re in, this does, and should, matter to you.
Everyone and everything is interconnected and intersectional. And everything we do or is done to us, creates ripples.
Let me tell you a little story.
As a Sudanese person, I find inspiration from my people. Who, since December of 2018, have been leading an historic revolution, protesting peacefully despite being met with violence. And I’m proud to tell you that they’ve brought down a 30 years long dictator, and when his Vice President took over, he was forced to step down within 30 hours of being President.
In this revolution, the most popular phrase was “Tasgot Bas”, which translates into “Just Fall, That’s all” it’s very dismissive and final. Basically saying we will accept no mediocrity or lies, you just gotta go. “TASGOT BAS”. So I want you all to remember this phrase and use it. Tasgot Bas!
In the face of oppression, say “Tasgot Bas” In the face of injustice. In the face of inequality and inequity. In the face of lies and hypocrisy. In the face of discrimination, racism, and sexism. In the face of everything that does not push us forward, and only divides us, say Tasgot Bas!
I believe that education is key, and being here tonight, surrounded by you all, I know, in the words of DJ Khaled, we got major keyz!
Finally, and again, Congratulations to all of you!