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Spring 2019 Lurie College Commencement Student Speaker Speeches

In case you missed them, listen to the heartwarming Lurie College Commencement speeches from student speakers Sarah Rodriguez (speech begins at 1:01:05) and Jasmin Roley (speech begins at 1:07:35)!

Sarah Rodriguez Spring 2019 Commencement Speech
Thank you Dean Lattimer.
Good evening, distinguished guests: parents, families, friends, faculty, and the ​class of 2019!
(Buenas tardes, distinguidos invitados: padres, familias, amigos, el personal de la universidad y la clase de 2019!)
I am both honored and humbled to have the opportunity of speaking tonight.
I first want to acknowledge the existence of each individual’s distinctive life story and experiences.  Every walk of life and university experience is truly represented among each and every one of you.  However, there is no doubt in my heart that as graduates of the college of education we all share a common desire.  This desire is to become an agent of change that strengthens the community, families, and the lives of students that we will encounter.
As a first generation Latina college student, I have witnessed and first-handedly experienced the adversities that emerge from being a student of color.  Leaving my single mother, and moving 7 hours away from home from the comfort of my small apartment was my first challenge.  Like many of us here, I stepped into this new environment​ ​with feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and excitement.  The sleepless nights that I would encounter, the feelings of loneliness and homesickness, financial hardships, skipping meals, and working up to three jobs a semester were to await me.  Yet, I knew that these challenges were not going to overpower my university experience.  I knew that San Jose State University was the ideal place for transformation to occur.  With apprehension, I slowly immersed myself into the community of San Jose State University and was quickly embraced by unimaginable opportunities.  Becoming involved in amazing programs such as the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and Associated Students, giving back to the community through several volunteer hours, directing a teen leadership program at a non profit organization, being mentored to become an undergraduate research assistant by Professor Izenstark, and through this all I was continuously guided by the wonderful faculty and staff, and supported by my friends & family.  San Jose State University, thank you, you became my home.
Class of 2019, I am genuinely inspired by the resilience and determination that prevails among each and every one of you.  I know this because as recent graduates, we have broken the barriers that our current political society has placed.  We have fought and ascended above the carelessly overlooked inadequacies and achievement gaps in our educational system.  This issue, has become a constant reinforcement of our purpose.  As future educators and leaders, this issue brings forth the extensive value and influence that we will have on the individuals that we will encounter.
As recent graduates from the college of education, we have every right to commemorate our hard-earned successes.  But we must remember that with these successes we have a societal commitment.  The societal commitment of sharing the lessons and knowledge we have cultivated throughout our trajectory at San Jose State University.  The commitment of being a mentor to students who feel belittled and lost.  The commitment of showing students that struggle is not synonymous to failing.  The commitment of giving a voice to the voiceless.  This means embracing and creating a space of acceptance and inclusivity for all individuals.  And most importantly, it means advocating for our students needs during national conversations and speaking on behalf of their future.
As we embark on our new journeys, I ask that you use your university experience to reflect on your societal commitments and keep them as the foundation for your purpose.  I can assure you that when you wholeheartedly guide, teach, or simply listen to the individuals that you encounter, your efforts will matter because an individual’s growth is an accumulation of the support they have received.
With that being said, tonight we not only acknowledge ourselves, we cherish our loved ones for their unconditional support, and we thank our mentors and professors for their wholeheartedness and wisdom.
(Padres, familias, y amigos gracias por sus sacrificios y su apoyo incondicional.  Su existencia son nuestra fuerza para seguir adelante.)
Class of 2019, use this accomplishment as a reminder of your strengths – look around, you made it!!
Thank you!  Love you, Mom!
Jasmin Roley Spring 2019 Commencement Speech
Hello and good evening to our guests here today and the graduating class of 2019.  My name is Jasmin Roley and I’m honored to be speaking with you today and to share my story.  I’m graduating today with a credential in Special Education and I’m also currently a teacher.  My coworkers and classmates are often surprised to hear that I never imagined myself working in education.  I’m sure my mom was surprised too, so let me explain how I got here.
I grew up in Silicon Valley, to parents born in Malaysia, who were ethnically Indian, yet spoke with a British accent from their time spent abroad.  As you might imagine, this left me pretty confused about my place in society. But it also gave me some clues about what it meant to be part of a few cultures and what it means to be different.  It also informed my academic interests.
Academically, after I graduated from UC Riverside with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in law I wasn’t really sure about my next steps.  I thought about becoming a lawyer or social worker but I still felt frozen about how to make a living in “life after college.”
Someone near and dear to me suggested I work as an aide in a special education classroom.  At the time, it seemed like the perfect placeholder.  I needed to earn money, I needed experience on my resume, and I loved working with kids.  But what I found there was something more than just that.  I found something that I was looking for in terms of a long-term career.  I found the opportunity to be able to grow, to be able to solve problems creatively, to be able to work with incredible people, as well as to make a positive impact in the world.
I also found my academic and personal interests met.  Being born to two Malaysian-Indian parents, with relatives everywhere except the United States, I understand what it meant to supporting students from different backgrounds.  And more than that, in college I had studied the educational and governmental systems that made up our country, the diverse communities within our country, and how these subjects intersect.  In the education setting, I was able to navigate a system responsible for supporting these diverse communities while being part of it myself.
We all start school with differences: whether it be the language or languages we grew up speaking, the food we eat at home, what our homes look like, where our neighborhoods are, what access to resources we have, how we learn and so on.  But the most critically conscious thing we can do is to acknowledge these differences and use them as strengths, not barriers.  We all have different starting places but education should be accessible to everyone so that everyone​ has the ability to maximize their full potential.  While we may not have the ability to give everyone the same starting line, we still have hope to provide an accessible and equitable education for everyone.
One of the faculty members here at San José State once said that working in education means being self-reflective of one’s practices and being able to handle change. Immediately when I heard that, I thought, “Great!  I’m awesome at overthinking and while I may hate change, I understand it’s the only constant in life, so I better get good at it.”  That being said, education is a field which asks people to reflect, grow, and to change to constantly evolve.  So, if we keep a mindset of doing what’s best for our students while constantly trying to improve our practices, we can keep moving forward.  It’s easy to talk about a future where one day all students have equity, but it’s our everyday actions and decisions that help build that vision.  Having shared a workplace and classes with current and future educators, I have nothing but faith for our commitment to keep making better choices for our students and to maximize their potential for the future and for all of their growth.  Like Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”
Thank you, and congratulations to the class of 2019!  We out here!

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