2010 Junior Ring and Tassel Ceremony Speech: Family Weekend
November 01, 2010
Good afternoon, faculty, staff, parents and members of the Class of 2012. It is an honor to be speaking to you today. The traditions of Emmanuel are so much a part of what makes this school remarkable. You stand with your sponsor today, just as so many have before, sharing a meaningful bond with each other and with the Emmanuel family. The person you have asked to stand with you may be a close friend, a family member, or a mentor, and now will always be someone with whom you share this special moment.
When I was invited to speak at today's Ring and Tassel Ceremony, I began reflecting on my own years at Emmanuel and what the experiences I had here have meant to my life. One particular memory came to mind that seemed to provide a backdrop to my experiences here. During my sophomore year, I served as an Orientation Leader, and the theme of Orientation that year was "Finding Where You Fit." The premise was that there is a place for everyone here at Emmanuel, and many people to help you find your place. This idea has stood out in my mind because I know that, while here, I found not only my place but my direction, my passion, and my voice.
Many high school graduates begin their first year of college without any idea of the direction in which they want to go. Others enter freshman year with a definite plan for the future that they work toward from day one. I began my years at Emmanuel in the latter category, but ironically found myself in the former before long. As a freshman, I thought I knew exactly what I was going to do-I would major in biology and eventually continue on to a career in genetics. I enrolled in all of the necessary general requirement classes, as well as the science lectures and labs that would keep me on the track I had planned. However, near the end of my sophomore year, my plan began to unravel. I gradually realized that I was finding myself more intrigued with the work my roommate was completing for her education classes than with my own meticulously written lab reports. After taking one education class, I found myself desiring to change my focus of studies, halfway through my college career. I felt like this might be hopeless, like I might not be able to catch up in the time I had left. I wasn't sure where to go from there. Fortunately, I was surrounded by faculty and staff who truly wanted to help. My academic advisor and the staff of both the biology department and education department guided me through options that would allow me to earn both a biology degree and an elementary education certification. Because of the caring people here at Emmanuel, I found my direction.
It wouldn't be enough to say that following that direction led me to a career with which I am extremely happy. It would be far more accurate to tell you that, on my path to graduation, I truly discovered a calling about which I am especially passionate. I discovered my love for teaching during my junior and senior year, when I was required to participate in first-hand practice in elementary school classrooms with seasoned teachers. The experience of learning the day to day routines and challenges, and the excitement of sharing those experiences with classmates and dedicated professors really developed the spark of interest I had into a deep love and respect for the teaching profession. I realized that becoming an educator was exactly what I was meant to do. I loved the planning, the philosophy, the interaction with the kids, and even simply talking about teaching! Because of the experiences I had at Emmanuel, I truly had discovered my passion.
While my academic life at Emmanuel led me to find direction and passion, it was the extra-curricular opportunities I was given here that helped me to find what may be the most important thing with which I came away from college, my voice. I had attended a rather large high school, and I never really felt comfortable attempting a leadership role. I always felt like there must be someone else who would be better suited for it than I was. When I came to Emmanuel, I was so much more at ease in a small community, and I felt like I could develop another side of myself. Like some of you, I began involving myself in as many activities as I could handle. I became a class officer, an orientation leader, a member of the theater guild, the dance team, and the Emmanuel singers, a student ambassador, and eventually, president of the SGA. Each of these experiences helped me to build important life-long skills. It is due to my involvement in these groups that I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I developed leadership skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, and public speaking. I learned to believe in myself and recognize talents that I didn't know I had. I think the positive change in my personality and my self-esteem surprised me more than anyone else. I owe many of my successes in life to the self-assurance and poise that I learned as a result of my involvement here. Because of the opportunities that were presented to me at Emmanuel, I found my voice.
Now, when I wear my college ring, I am reminded of all that Emmanuel has meant to me, and I am quick to share stories of my experience with people who comment on the uniqueness of the stone. It represents my belonging to a very special group, the past and present members of a community that offers so much to those who are fortunate enough to find themselves here. Though so much has changed since my years here, it is heart-warming to know that special traditions such as this continue. It is tradition, after all, that binds us together even through necessary changes. While many things about Emmanuel are different now than they were 10 years ago, the mission, the dedication, and the close-knit community remain the same. I encourage you to be an active part of that community. Even if you haven't yet involved yourself in one of the many groups, clubs, or activities available here, I urge you to open yourself to such an experience. It may just be that you will surprise yourself with the talents and strengths you uncover as a result. I hope that, as you continue to commit to being contributing members of the Emmanuel family, you also come to find your own direction, your own passion, and your own voice.