Deborah A. Santiago, co-founder and vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization advocating for Latino success in higher education, delivered the keynote address to 96 graduates at The National Hispanic University’s 27th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19, 2012.
“Today, only about 30 percent of adults in the U.S. have earned a bachelor’s degree or more, and less than 15 percent of Latino adults have earned a bachelor’s degree or more,” said Ms. Santiago. “You are a person of privilege because you have a college education, and with this privilege comes responsibility—responsibility to yourself, your family, your university, your community and your world.”
Ms. Santiago also praised The National Hispanic University’s vision that every student at the institution will graduate. “That’s a powerful vision to fulfill, and you here today are part of that vision,” she said. “This spirit of invention, of becoming entrepreneurs to make sure we meet the needs we see around us, lives in all of you. You have found a way and prepared yourself for a robust but unknown future. You have the tools, training and education you need to succeed and be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow—be the change you want to see.”
One of those students was Patricia Ruiz who received her B.A. in Liberal Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies Concentration and was the first recipient of the university’s Elena Poniatowska Civic Leadership Scholarship, a scholarship that recognizes the recipient’s commitment to social activism.
She is interested in pursuing a career in journalism, education or the public sector and plans on pursuing graduate school. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, she sees the importance of her community becoming bilingual and biliterate. She strongly believes this is not only the key to a better, more positive immigrant experience in general, but that it also can be the source of important societal advances for future generations.
In her acceptance speech Patricia offered words of advice to her fellow students, “Tomorrow is the beginning of the rest of our lives and all I ask is that you keep your head tilted towards the sun and remember where you came from. Know and own the pride of coming from such a humble, beautiful place that has seen us become who we are. This is only the beginning. Because change has taken full effect, we’re in full bloom, now we MUST conquer the world.”
Another notable graduate was David Doyon (B.A. in Liberal Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies Concentration) who received the NHU President’s Award, an award bestowed upon a graduate who has served as a student leader and demonstrated a pioneering spirit, leaving a tangible, lasting legacy as a result of his or her student involvement. He is of French and Italian descent, and he pursued his B.A. in Liberal Studies with a Cross-Cultural Studies Concentration in order to have a broader understanding of the culture and community he lives and teaches in. David has been working at Piedmont Middle School, coaching basketball and working as a Computer Instructional Associate at the school.
He applied to graduate school at Stanford for a Master’s in Education with a multiple credential program, because he wants to continue working at Piedmont Middle School and teach the students he calls “his kids.”
“My plans are to be a teacher and make a difference in peoples’ lives.” David told his peers. “Never before, since high school, have I been able to make as many new friends as I have, by being a student at NHU. Making a difference in people’s lives’ is the reason I endured the struggles of earning this degree.”
“This institution has helped me become a better partner, better dad, and a better person. I stand before this crowd today and I make this promise to the world … I will not take for granted the opportunity to educate the youth and will do it to the best of my ability.”
Photo By Estrada Photos
The National Hispanic University was founded in 1981 by the late Dr. B. Roberto Cruz, who dedicated his life to making educational opportunities available to Hispanics and members of other underrepresented groups. Grounded in cultural respect, the university fosters a learning environment that reflects the rich heritage and diversity of the Hispanic community. For more information on NHU visit: http://www.nhu.edu/.