As we embark on the next journey of our lives, remember that emotions make us human. ... We may feel overwhelmed, whether it’s with nerves, happiness, excitement for what lies ahead, or all of the above. Whatever it is, embrace it.
Early Saturday morning, three life-long friends gathered in the parking lot at Gillette Stadium to help one another adjust their robes and stoles as they prepared to celebrate yet another milestone.
Over the years, Savannah Resendes, Jailyn Tavares, and Angela Locke have created lasting memories as they navigated elementary school, middle school and high school together in their native New Bedford.
Now concluding their studies in early childhood education at Bridgewater State University, crossing the commencement stage together inside Gillette meant a lot for these tight-knit friends and first-generation college graduates.
“It’s been very rewarding, fun, and exciting,” Tavares said. “We all stuck through it together.”
Added Resendes: “It’s rewarding being the first person in your family to do this. It shows all the sacrifices my parents made that helped provide me with opportunities.”
Across two ceremonies, BSU celebrated the achievements of 1,841 members of the Class of 2022. Many have faced the loss of loved ones, immigrated to a new country, cared for their children, and worked multiple jobs while taking classes.
Graduates faced a pandemic and graduated amid a war in Ukraine and the prospect of an economic recession. Yet these achievers are ready to change the world for the better, said President Frederick W. Clark, Jr., ’83.
“With all of the adversity, I believe that our newest graduates sitting in front of me will be the next greatest generation because you are strong, resilient and determined,” he said. “You, my friends, give all of us hope for the future.“
Speaking to graduates of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley highlighted her perseverance as a parent, caregiver to a mother with terminal cancer, sexual assault survivor, and forceful advocate for a more just world.
“May you continue to get up, survive, to thrive, to bring your purpose-driven contribution to our commonwealth and our world. … You are worthy. You are enough and, guess what else, you are ready,” she said. “You are ready for whatever comes next.”
Pressley received an honorary degree along with renowned basketball coaches and former roommates Elaine Clement-Holbrook, ’75, G’81, and Barbara Stevens, ’76. Clement-Holbrook, who coached girls basketball at Easton’s Oliver Ames High School, and Stevens, who led Bentley University’s women’s basketball team, told science, mathematics and business graduates how they used their BSU degrees to mentor and educate countless students.
“What drove us was knowing we had to be at our best in order to bring out the best in those we taught and coached. It’s the same in any profession,” Stevens said. “You have no choice but to be your best, because when you strive to be great, you inspire those around you to discover their own greatness.”
For student speaker Majd Al-Jurf, finding one’s greatness often means leaving one’s comfort zone, just as she did in moving from Jordan to Massachusetts.
“We don’t all face the same challenges, but we do share many of the same feelings,” the accounting and finance major told morning graduates. “For many of us, the path to commencement wasn’t easy...You are all insanely brave and will continue to be in the future.”
Those feelings ranged from confidence in newfound knowledge to grief at the loss of a close relative, said Shakira Rosado, a social work major who spoke to afternoon graduates.
“As we embark on the next journey of our lives, remember that emotions make us human,” she said, adding: “We may feel overwhelmed, whether it’s with nerves, happiness, excitement for what lies ahead, or all of the above. Whatever it is, embrace it.”
Locke, one of the trio of friends from New Bedford, is guided by Nelson Mandela’s belief that education is the most powerful weapon to change the world.
“I’m now graduating and educated, but I will also become an educator for others,” she said. “With the climate of the world right now, we all need some education in our lives.”
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