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2023 Commencement

Student Speeches

Speech 1

Having been in prison for 20 years, I am very grateful to finally have been given the opportunity to earn a college degree.

For years I was told that I had too much time to take college classes despite my pleas and eagerness to do so. Thankfully, Edmonds gave me the opportunity, and now I can return to society within the next five years with real credentials and the ability to earn a higher wage.

I am only the second person in my family to earn a college degree, so it is a big deal to me, and I’m very grateful to everyone who made it possible.

It is said that with a great eagerness to excel and succeed, there must also be a great opportunity to do so.

To everyone at Edmonds and TRU’s satellite campus, your work makes a difference, and it is such a great contribution to society. With your help, and because of the opportunity you provided for me, I will return to my community a worthy and accomplished man with a much brighter future than when I came in.

Speech 2

It is an honor to share this special moment with all of you.

I want to thank the educators, Ms. A., and the administrators for their combined efforts in making it possible for me to be here today. I appreciate you all. To the family members, even those unable to be here, thank you for your support. And, thank you to my fellow graduates for all of your efforts along the way… WE MADE IT!

I was born in Guatemala and grew up in the U.S. English is actually the third language I’ve learned in life, so bear with me. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to invest my time in this education and earn my diploma. I can only imagine that many people in the world would love to have the same accomplishment but cannot access school as I can.

All of us in this room have achieved these milestones in our education amidst the confusion of prison, a life that is full of the pain of being separated from our loved ones, and a constant contention with the hostilities that occupy the other prison cells not represented at events such as this. Like all of my fellow graduates, I have had to overcome these obstacles to get here. Having challenged such adversity, and arriving at this point, now I believe that I am capable of so much more than I had formerly given myself credit for.

When first introduced to school, it was a meaningless classroom of activities. I didn’t appreciate it. Until I learned to ask myself questions such as, “What do I really want out of life?” and “Where is my life going?” At the time I was at Airway Heights, I approached my GED teacher, Ms. B (an amazing teacher), and asked her which of the four GED subjects was the hardest to study. She replied, “Math.” So, I said, “I want to study math!” It was the start of my educational career. Fourteen months later, I was able to pass my first GED test, followed by the science test three months later.

Then, without warning, COVID happened, and we were subject to lockdowns that canceled most programming.

In 2021, I was transferred to Twin Rivers, where I was able to continue my education. While taking classes with Ms. C, I learned about HS Plus and I asked if I could do that instead of GED. She said that I could. This made me want to work even harder in order to achieve this goal.

As lockdowns persisted, I was fortunate to be able to continue my studies in my cell. Not only did this provide me with an ongoing purpose, but it also helped me to combat the feelings of isolation.

Now, 15 months later, I stand before you as a testament to the effectiveness of willpower and discipline. Today I stand before you as a graduate!

This educational journey has helped shape a new purposeful identity within me. The path forward displays ever greater achievements, which I now feel confident I can complete. The discipline I have learned has empowered me to tackle higher educational challenges and to face life on its own terms.

If a journey of a million miles begins with a single step, then I believe that the change needed in this world begins with a single individual, such as myself, taking the opportunity to rise up out of the mire of ignorance. The fact that there are many of us in this room today who have cultivated similar accomplishments in our lives inspires me to believe that change, which the world so badly needs, has begun in this room.

Never stop evaluating your progress. Daily, ask what your purpose is, and what the meaning of life is to you. Rise to the challenges before you, no longer defined by a past that cannot be changed, but rather, by a future that you alone can write. Beginning today in this prison world of isolation and hostility, join me to represent the change for a brighter future.

As for you educators, I encourage you to continue cultivating opportunities for a change within the lives of your students, just as you have done for me. You are the inspiration of life which functions behind the scenes, and I think I speak for all of us when I say thank you for helping us realize our goals and for helping me become the best version of myself.