2019 Commencement Speech

Good morning Fellow Graduates, Family Members, Director Washington, Educational Director Gay, Asst. Educational Director Costello, Warden Brewer, Jackson College Leadership & Trustees, Principal Gumper and WHV Staff. I am beyond delighted to be a part of this triumphant celebration of accomplishments.

Director Washington, Educational Director Gay, Asst. Educational Director Costello, Warden Brewer, Jackson College Leadership, Principal Gumper and WHV Staff, it is because of all your empirical wisdom and concerted efforts that we all are here today. Our collective understanding that we are more than just inmates, more than our mistakes, has made it possible for this full-scale endeavor to become a reality. The administration and staff cannot be thanked enough for both providing and allowing this opportunity for me and my fellow graduates. This was not only a goal to be achieved but a dream that came true. I’m sure everyone here agrees that education is invaluable and today we can all validate our wort n and that is the most valuable lesson to carry forward.

To get here it took discipline, persistence, and support. Support from family, friends, fellow students, and staff. Before I go any further I would like to acknowledge my support system. Ms. Mack, Mother and Theodore, “you loved me without fear, trusted me without question, needed me without demanding and accepted me without change”. Thank you for always believing in me and supporting me. I love you infinity and beyond.

Now Graduates, today we are officially alumni of Jackson College. Each of us graduating today have weathered many storms to reach this moment. We are no longer leaders of tomorrow but of today. Not only are we leaders but we are also mentors and proud examples. We are the change that we’ve been waiting to see among our peers therefore we a re now held to a higher level of responsibility. Today is not only an act of individual commitment, but also one of pride. Individually and collectively we all worked hard to get to this day, and our work is not going unnoticed. The certificates and degrees that we are receiving today are magnificent and useful tools in the world, tools that will help to open many doors of opportunity for anyone who is blessed enough to have one.

Being the first graduating class we have set the precedent. In order to be good leaders we had to first become good students, listeners, communicators and most importantly critical thinkers. Now we can bask in our academic accomplishments. This entire graduating class is graduating with honors. This entire graduating class is on the Dean’s List, and almost of this graduating class are members of the Alpha Rho Lambda Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Life is a journey, and all accomplishments we achieve during its course should be taken as starting points for further achievements.

We are undoubtedly eager and ready to tackle the next phase of our lives. This is only one of many major milestones in our lives. You cannot discover new oceans unless you dare to lose sight of the shore. We need not be reminded that education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. Learning new things depends on self-willingness. However, our willingness to learn would have been nothing without the hard-working spirit and dedication that our professors offered us. Our professors have often times said that we are the best and hardest working students that they’ve had and I agree. The thing is, we are the best and hardest working students because we have more to prove.

We’ve shown our commitment to personal growth through making it thus far. Fellow graduates I now challenge you to take risks, set goals and continue your hunger for knowledge. We must find ways to give back to our community both inside and out and be prepared to reenter society as exemplary, active, creative, honest, eager, and productive citizens.
The road that lies ahead won’t be easy. There will be detours and missed exits, potholes and roadblocks. There will be times when each of us will feel like we cannot fathom going on. There will be times when each of us will feel alone. But remember that nothing worthwhile is easy, and that includes making the most out of our futures. We must never give up on ourselves. We must keep persevering, because we now know we can achieve our dreams, and most importantly because we know we are worth it.

This graduation has already shown us how capable we all are of accomplishing our goals when we commit ourselves to them. I pray that all of us here today can take this personal accomplishment as an example of how anything is truly possible when we put our minds to it. As we all continue on in our I ives, let us approach each new problem with confidence, knowing that we have achieved great heights and are equipped with the essential tools to tackle our futures.

This day means that there should be no more excuses. The matriarch of my family, my grandmother has always taught me, “We make no excuse for the things that we have, for this that we have the Lord has provided and we are thankful.” So from this day forward, let us make each decision with our best interests in mind. Let us have confidence in ourselves so that we may reach our goals and fulfill our purpose. Let us be the best that we can be so that we may fill our lives and the lives of those that are dear to us with bliss, honor and with pride. We’ve already taken the first step by making it to this ceremony today.

In closing I want the graduating class to always remember, “A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her.”

Congratulations to the class of 2019.

– K.L. Woods