Student graduation speakers hope to impart wisdom to peers

By Debbie Kelley Published: May 6, 2013 | 12:00 am 0

John 'Sam ' Brody knows it's highly likely that a few days, or even a few hours, after he delivers his commencement address at Colorado College's graduation May 20, many of his classmates won't be able to recall a word he said.

That's OK by Brody, as long as they remember a kernel of the concept he'll plant.

'I want to implore people to realize how wonderful the community is here at CC and, in whatever they do in business or in life, to work to build similar communities, ' said Brody, who will earn a bachelor's degree in economics.

The graduation speech can be as boring as the rehearsal or as exhilarating as the hat toss. As they strive for the latter, local students selected for the tradition are finalizing the thoughts they will impart on their peers in coming weeks.

'I hope to interest people for a few minutes. I don't want my speech to be wishy-washy or overly lofty. I want people to be entertained, ' said Brody, a 22-year-old from Columbus, Ohio.

The honor of being chosen as the senior class speaker is not one to be taken lightly. Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Maloney said she was 'shocked ' to be picked by students, teachers and administrators to talk at Liberty High School's graduation May 23.

'I wanted to start crying, ' she said.

Maloney, who will study biological sciences at Baylor University in the fall, has been working for two months on perfecting her words and public speaking skills, relying on her parents and teachers, and a graduation committee for advice.

Because she's sentimental, Maloney plans to focus on the theme of memories.

'I want classmates to think of their favorite memories. We have so many memorable moments - it's one of the great things about our class and why we're so unique, ' she said.

Active on the student council, school assemblies and cheerleading, Maloney said she will challenge graduates to keep the positive memories close to their hearts throughout their lives.

'We'll always have the accomplishments we've made and the great times we've had with us, ' she said, adding that the school spirit is one of the things she's appreciated the most about the class of 2013.

Jesse Perez, 24, is gleaning from his experiences at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to reinforce points in his speech.

'I want to send the message to live life and make it meaningful, and stay true to your passion, ' he said. 'In our personal journeys to find success, we need to be kind and open and take every opportunity to help others. '

A New Mexico native and first-generation college graduate, Perez has attended UCCS since 2006. On May 24, he'll receive a master's degree in student affairs and higher education.

To pinpoint his passion, Perez has worked in several campus offices, including the diversity office, along with the tutoring center and program for students on academic probation. He now knows he wants to work as a student adviser and teach part time.

He relied on family, mentors and advisers for support, including Peak Education, a local nonprofit that helps low-income first-generation college students achieve their goals.

'A college education is something we should think of as a privilege and something we shouldn't take for granted, ' Perez said. 'We should use it to make our mark on the world. '

The big day is perhaps best summed up by Dr. Seuss, in his book, 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!: '

'You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So . get on your way! '

College Ceremonies

Pikes Peak Community College

In its 45th year of operation, PPCC will recognize nearly 950 graduates with associates degrees and certifications in career and technical fields. The ceremony will be 2-5 p.m. Saturday at New Life Church Auditorium, 1025 Voyager Parkway.

It is open to the public and no tickets are needed. Colorado Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia, who served as president of PPCC from 2001 to 2006 and as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo from 2006 to 2010, will deliver the commencement address.

Outgoing student government president Troy Smith will speak on, 'We did it! Now what? ' in reference to PPCC's vision statement: 'Students Succeed at PPCC. '

Three students will be recognized for their contributions and achievements with awards. Graduating vets and active military will be given a coin during the ceremony to honor them for their service. Also, 40 PPCC students graduating with an associate's degree of Applied Science in Nursing will participate in a pinning ceremony 5-6:30 p.m. Friday at Coronado High School Theater, 1590 W. Fillmore St. The event is open to the public.

The tradition signifies a nurse's initiation into the profession and an acknowledgement of his or her dedication to patients. Graduates choose an individual who has played a significant role in their life to pin them. Historians trace the ceremony to 12th-century crusades, and Florence Nightingale picked up the idea in the 1860s.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

When faced with a tough decision of whether to limit the number of guests 1,200 students could invite to graduation, UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak came up with a new idea. For the first time since its founding in 1965, UCCS will split its graduation into two ceremonies, on the same day. The separation allows for all levels of graduates, bachelors, masters and doctorates, to be represented at both ceremonies, said Tom Hutton, UCCS spokesman.

The first ceremony will be 11:30 a.m. May 24 at the Colorado Springs World Arena, for students of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Speakers will include the UCCS chancellor, CU President Bruce Benson and Maria Tobin, a graduating senior in history and German and winner of the Student Achievement Award.

The second ceremony will begin at 3:30 p.m. May 24 at the World Arena, for students of the schools of Business, Engineering, Nursing and Public Affairs. The UCCS chancellor and CU president will speak, along with Jesse Perez, a master's degree candidate in education and winner of the Student Achievement Award. In addition, the CU Board of Regents will present a distinguished service citation to economist Tucker Hart Adams.

Air Force Academy

About 1,000 cadets are expected to get their diplomas and be commissioned as second lieutenants. The gates at Falcon Stadium will open at 7 a.m. May 29. The graduation ceremony will be from 9:40 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tickets are required. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley is the keynote speaker.

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