Remarks delivered at STCC’s 55th Commencement, June 2, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

I’d like to give a warm welcome to President Cook, Vice Chairwoman MacDonald, members of the stage party, faculty, staff, guests, and most importantly, the Class of 2022 and their families. 

On behalf of the class of 2022, I am honored to be on this stage speaking to you. What a gift that we can all gather today, in person, to celebrate our achievements and success. Each of us has made a remarkable commitment to achieving our goals and now, we have finally arrived at this pivotal moment in our lives. 

There were many obstacles and challenges we had to overcome to be here today, including COVID-19 restrictions, obligations to work and to our families, and even the price of gas rising to the point that it feels just as costly as tuition.  For many in the Class of 2022, our journey began in the middle of a pandemic. And for some of our time here at STCC, we missed out on the college experience of being in a class environment, meeting new people and getting to know our professors.  Instead, we experienced virtual learning, and if you’re a Criminal Justice major like me, many of your courses were asynchronous, meaning you designed your own schedule. Whether this was writing down  due dates in a calendar or writing yourself a daily to-do list, you created something to stay on track, as it  was easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of reading, note-taking and assignments to be completed. 

Even with all of the planning, learning in the comfort of your own home makes it all too easy to be sidetracked. I’m sure there were many times when we should have been taking notes but were actually watching Netflix, hanging out with friends or slipping into dreamland. 

In addition to the normal challenges that school brings, some of you have jobs, and children or grandchildren, which only adds to your daily routine. I didn’t start working until my last semester at STCC, and it was the busiest I have ever been. It wasn’t until then that I was able to appreciate just how hard it is to work and go to school, or how hard it must be to be a parent and a student at the same time. Meeting students like you inspired me to work even harder because I had much less to worry about. 

As things started to get back to normal and restrictions were lifted, we were given the choice to come on campus and engage with other members of the STCC community.  It was during this time that I was given the opportunity to challenge myself and step out of my shell through an invitation to the Student Ambassador program. I was a bit nervous and hesitant at first, but luckily, my dad encouraged me to apply, and I was warmly accepted. Having been devoid of social interaction due to the pandemic, engaging with other Ambassadors and student leaders was a welcome change. I was able to make connections with the faculty here at STCC and help plan student activities and volunteer for campus events. Through this experience, I was able to grow as a person and contribute to the safe, fun, and diverse environment we have at STCC. 

I hope that as you continue to march forward in your journey or career you continue to seize opportunities that are challenging or outside of your comfort zone. Here at STCC, we had an amazing network of faculty, advisors, and support staff. At home, we had our friends and family, the same people sitting in the audience now, or watching the ceremony from home, cheering us on as they have done throughout our time here, and throughout our lives. Without their laughter, their home cooked meals, their patience, and their encouragement, we would not be where we are today. 

Lastly, I’d like us to look to the future. Who will you be tomorrow? Where are you heading? What are your goals? My goal, which I’ve had since I was ten, is to be a prosecutor, so I’ve still got quite a ways to go, but I’m  on the right track.  This moment right now is only the beginning of a long, hard journey on a path each of you has set for yourself with a destination only you can imagine. So keep walking, make your dream a reality. It is never too late to be what you might have been. 

Thank you and congratulations Class of 2022!