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‘Strong and Resilient’

Morning commencement speaker to touch upon pandemic’s impact

Four years ago, members of the Bridgewater State University class of 2024 started their college experience sitting in front of a screen. 

Due to COVID, all classes had moved online, and the campus felt empty, students isolated. 

During their time at BSU these students adapted to all the pandemic-related restrictions and changes, emerging triumphant and ready to walk the commencement stage.

“Looking back and reflecting on all we’ve had to overcome, the skills we developed to face whatever challenges we might have in the future…it’s all shaped us into who we are today,” said Tori Kalisz, ’24. “Those setbacks were just steppingstones to get us to where we need to go in life.” 

Tori is this year’s student speaker during the morning commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 11, held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. 

The Acushnet native knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. 

At age 13, she was diagnosed with a connective-tissue disorder that causes debilitating pain and fatigue, leaving her often physically and emotionally drained. 

“It impacts my life in more ways than I can describe,” Tori said. 

The disorder requires mandatory physical therapy, which has benefited her in multiple ways. 

Outside of the support of her parents, it is her physical therapist who helped her manage it all and discover her calling. 

“My physical therapist has helped me in my darkest moments and shaped me into the strong person I am today,” Tori said. “Thanks to my time with her, I grew to realize that what she does is what I want to do.”

Tori came to BSU to study health sciences and minor in psychology, with a goal to eventually work at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she can help children as a pediatric physical or occupational therapist. 

She’s already been helping school-aged children through a program she herself created called Rise Up, You’re Stronger Than You Think. (Instagram: riseup_torikalisz)

Through the program she uses both online platforms and in-person visits to talk with students about the importance of resilience. She shares her own life experiences as inspiration. 

“I share my story because I want people to accomplish what they want, to become resilient and strong, to be more than they think they can be…sometimes we need that one person to give us that extra push,” Tori said. 

As she takes the stage at Gillette on commencement day to speak to her fellow graduates, Tori wants to remind them of where they’ve been, what they’ve overcome and hopes her story resonates. 

“We were all impacted by COVID,” she said. “It was our resilience that we need to remember and touch upon before we go our separate ways.”

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