Thank you so much, Dr. Rocha.
Faculty, Friends, Students and families– it is a true honor to be here with you this evening. I live in Mt. Washington so I’m a PCC neighbor. I’m also a PCC parent, since my son Sean was a student here a couple of years ago.
Let me start by telling you…. I know I’m between you and what you really came here for. But today I want to tell you a bit about my own journey and how it relates to what you’ve been through.
PCC and the USC Rossier School of Education have common and critical missions – to build education environments where every student, regardless of personal circumstance, is able to learn and succeed. USC and PCC also have deep and ongoing ties – in the last decade over 1000 PCC graduates have gone on to attend and graduate from USC and I know some of you will do that in the fall.
I am enormously proud, as you should be, of what you have accomplished. Many – if not most – of you, have done it under circumstances that were less than ideal.
Now, since I work in a research university, I’m all about collecting the data. So I hope you don’t mind if I take a small poll.
- Raise your hand if you were the first one in your family to go to college. Me, too.
- How many of you worked at the same time you were going to school? So did I.
- How many of you were raised by a single parent or guardian? Same here.
- How many of you have siblings who are a huge distraction – getting in trouble or not doing well in school? I did.
- How many of you are parents yourself – and struggle with childcare – while in school? I definitely did.
Ok – enough data collection! You get the point! The reason that I’m enormously proud of all of you today is because I understand exactly what it took for you to have reached this day. To have achieved this goal. Our stories – yours and mine – aren’t really so different.
And as we know, life is not necessarily fair – you have to go with the hand you are dealt.
So with your permission, I’d like to share two lessons I learned on my own path. To finishing college. And to building a career which is more satisfying and rewarding than I could ever have imagined.
Lesson One – Rally the troops. Get the support you need! I was 11 and I lived in a very blue collar neighborhood in Seattle when I my dad died. We had no family in Washington, and my mother turned to the community… to our neighbors, to church, and to the schools to help her raise two young children. She took her first job in the mailroom of an insurance company and my brother, Jeff, and I became latch key kids with the mothers in the neighborhood watching over us.
You’ve heard the phrase “it takes a village”. Our neighborhood families made sure that we went to scout meetings and to clubs. They made sure we were invited to father/daughter or father/son events.
And my teachers and counselors took me under their wing to help me on the path to college.
Once I GOT to college at Western Washington University, I restacked books in the library and served desserts and salads in the dormitory commons to help pay my way.
Years later when I was in graduate school in Indiana, I found myself relying on friends for the use of an apartment for my son and me when my husband had to move to another city for work. Another friend stepped up to baby-sit at important times while I was working on my dissertation.
The point is — don’t be timid about asking for help. At any age and at any stage.
Second lesson – Make it public! I’m a big believer in stating my goals out loud. From an early age I said I would go to college and even though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, I was not going to embarrass myself by not making it happen. It took lots of small scholarships and my having two part-time jobs, but I did get my bachelors degree.
I also said I would major in political science – a funny idea for a woman in the late ‘60s! I was one of only three women in the department. But once I said it out loud I could hardly switch over to home economics!
I also said I would be a lawyer – ok, so not EVERYTHING I stated out loud came to pass, but you get the idea.
I also said out loud to my mom that I wanted to get my Ph.D. My mother was baffled. She didn’t think it was a good idea – but I said it….and I did it.
So – make it public. Say it out loud. Also known as – put your reputation on the line!
Over the years, my family and I moved around the country seven times….each time moving for a better opportunity. And I’m now at the USC Rossier School of Education.
Our school like yours is truly a place where it takes a village to succeed. And where saying it out loud means we will live up to our promises to innovate, educate, and transform education for a new generation of students. Students like you. From incredibly diverse regions of the world. From rural and urban communities. From every conceivable background. Some of you are teenagers, some AARP members! I think that is just remarkable. And hundreds of you fit the same profile that I fit when I was a college student.
Thankfully, you are so much more savvy and connected and knowledgeable about the world than I was. And so I know that you will succeed and reach your highest personal goals if you say them out loud….
So let’s get started and do it now. We’re going to say your goals out loud…..one two three.
You’ve just said it out loud. Keep that promise you’ve just made to yourself. I know it won’t be easy. But don’t forget to ask for help!
I wish for each and every one of you the fulfillment of all of your dreams.
Congratulations to you on this remarkable day.