Student Speaker Shares Message of Pride, Perseverance
(The following is Stavinski's Aug. 8 commencement speech at the Community Arts Center.)
Wow! Thank you, Mr. Strickland for that kind introduction. The only thing I can say is thank you and I think you must have introduced the wrong guy.
Greetings and good afternoon, Dr. Gilmour, senator, Penn College faculty, family, friends and the graduating class of 2015.
It is truly an honor to be selected and standing here before you as the student commencement speaker. There are a great deal of individuals I would like to thank for this opportunity, but I will try and make this brief. I want to thank my nominators for a vision that was once lost, but you returned. I thank you for always believing in my abilities not only as a student but as an individual. I would like to thank the faculty and administration here at Penn College, specifically those in the paramedic department both in the classroom and in the clinical setting. Thank you for pushing me and making me strive for nothing short of excellence. I would also like to thank my fellow classmates. We laughed, we cried, we took naps in the back of the ambulance when we shouldn’t have ... but we were still able to accomplish those torturous skill scenarios together. Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for all of their unconditional love and support over these past few years. I share this honor with all of you.
Fellow classmates, so here we are – finally – sometime between two, four or however many years it took. We gather today to celebrate what seems like an eternity of long, endless hard work. We’re surrounded by our fellow classmates, our friends, our families and our professors ... all who are here to commemorate and reminisce on our college experiences. We must acknowledge those who helped make our college experience the best possible. Those who have inspired us, encouraged us and maybe even frustrated us, but – most importantly – kept us grounded throughout our time at Penn College.
Like many of you, Class of 2015, when I first came to Penn College, I was a bit apprehensive. I remember thinking, "Who thought scheduling the first week of classes during the Little League World Series was a good idea?" But soon I realized the atmosphere it created on campus was electric and students were actually excited to start class. Since the college's beginning, Penn College was training students for job-readiness, which was evident during the Great Depression when jobs were few and far between, where graduates from the school's various programs were put in a better position to obtain these difficult jobs. The school's name may have changed over the years, but the school's values of being a source of education where students can truly get “hands-on” experience with “real world” application of learning never changed. You see, Class of 2015, we came here not because we wanted to punch a clock at the end of the day, but, rather, we came here because we wanted to be in a position to make a difference. We wanted a degree that would work.
When I was first asked to be the student commencement speaker, I must admit I was puzzled. I kept asking myself, “Why me?” I’m 25 years old, I have a bachelor’s degree from another university and, like most, I claimed I knew exactly the next step I was going to take after graduation. I soon realized, a few short years later, life is difficult and never goes as planned. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been rejected, I’ve failed more than I would like to admit, but a wise man once told me, “Hard times produce life’s greatest gifts." If you take nothing from my speech today, I hope you take away this: No one succeeds without mistakes or failures, and those who succeed owe their success to perseverance. Whether you have a full-time job lined up or have no idea what you're going to do next, I hope you make mistakes. Because if you make mistakes, you're learning, you're living, you're pushing yourself ... because the real world is unforgiving and unpredictable and, if life knocks you down, I hope you get back up and persevere. Today is the beginning of new opportunities – from health care to finance, automotive to culinary – and with these new opportunities comes uncertainty.
You see, Class of 2015, we all have a certain degree of uncertainty right now, and I assure you that uncertainty never goes away. But the question I ask all of you is, do you know how to make that uncertainty your friend? Can you embrace that uncertainty in your life and transform it into something great?
Along with the new opportunities we are soon to be presented with, today is our last day as Penn College students, and there is a universal truth we all have to face, whether we want to or not: Everything eventually ends. As much as we have all looked forward to this day, we all will admit we dislike endings, the last day of summer or parting ways with a good friend. Endings are inevitable: Summer ends, snow falls, we say goodbye, we move on. Today, we say goodbye to everything that was familiar to us. We’re moving on, but just because we’re leaving ... and that hurts. Our Penn College education and family will be with us no matter where we roam. Penn College has become our foundation of growth, our north star and the small, clear voice inside our head that makes the uncertainty we will encounter through life our friend – the voice giving us hope for the future so we can make a difference.
My hope for you, Class of 2015, is that you be bold, be kind and be true. I hope you go confidently in the direction of your dreams, seizing every opportunity presented to you. And if that uncertainty you feel doesn’t seem right, go left. But most importantly, I hope you always remember if your Plan A doesn’t work out, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet waiting for their opportunity to shine.
Congratulations, Class of 2015. Good luck. Be great and make Penn College proud.