'We represent you'
"Our stories are your stories. Every one of us has something to be proud of."
Flanked by her colleagues from the Student Senate, graduating HCC student Natilie Besner '19 presented the class gift at Commencement 2019, a monetary donation to HCC's Thrive Center that is meant to help address food insecurity on campus.
Below is the full text of her remarks:
Fellow graduates, we, the graduating Student Senators are honored to present the gift for the class of 2019.
We would like to start by asking you a question. Have you or someone you know personally dealt with food insecurity or hunger? Raise your hands. Keep them up. Have you or someone you know personally dealt with housing insecurity or homelessness? Finally, have you or someone close to you struggled to find affordable child care? Look around, that's almost all of us! It's part of our shared identity as the class of 2019 and these are obstacles that didn't stop us. We have overcome.
We want to take a minute to say thank you to every teacher, family member, and friend who helped us along the way, and especially to the ones who were there when we were living with issues that affected our ability to actually survive each day. Thank you, we did it together!
I'd like to introduce you to the graduating student senators up here with me.
Haley Woods, who has been the student representative on the Board of Trustees for the college this year. She's spoken for all of us regarding the college mission, focus, and policies that affect all students.
Ithar Gabriel, who had to support her family by going to work instead of finishing high school, but is graduating today after immigrating to the U.S., finishing her degree, and has five colleges interested in recruiting her with full scholarships.
Adam Chapman, who balanced life, school, and a full-time job over three years and is now graduating with honors and transferring to UMass Amherst where he will do it all over again.
Adam Abdelrahman, who was the one student chosen out of the entire graduating class to represent the courage, drive, and spirit of HCC as this year's "29 Who Shine" winner.
It's not just about accomplishment. It's about persistence and resilience. There are five of us standing up here, and yes, we have accomplished these things. But our stories are your stories. Every one of us has something to be proud of. Think about this:
One of us...
• Waited 8 years in a refugee camp to come to the U.S. (immigration)
• Lives with a learning disability and yet makes honors every semester (disability)
• Had the courage to come out to our family and be proud of who we are (LGBT)
• Gets stared at and interrogated for the cultural piece we wear on our head (religion)
• Lived in a shelter after escaping an abusive environment (housing)
• Has been rejected from a job because of our accent or last name (culture)
• Survived through years in the foster care system (system)
• Had to choose between food and heat (hunger)
These are our stories but they are also your stories. We stand here before you, but we also represent you. Any one of you could be standing up here. As college students, we have been through similar circumstances, and sometimes you cannot see this by just looking at someone.
Our priority this year was to be directly involved with solutions to student homelessness, hunger, and food insecurity. We worked hand in hand with students, faculty, and staff to address these problems. We put in hours of work organizing the food pantry, advocated for student support, and were able to speak with our Board of Trustees and legislators across the state.
There is a special place that has impacted me and my journey at HCC; that place is the Thrive Center. I felt inclined to share my story in hopes that more students like me would get the help they need. Last semester, I was not so fortunate. I didn't have a stable living situation and I was struggling financially. Getting adequate meals and being able to afford feeding myself was a daily struggle. Today, I stand here and can say, I am stable. I am graduating with honors and thanks to the Thrive Center I learned a lot about being an independent adult and the responsibilities that come with it.
We would like to dedicate this gift to the Thrive Center staff for looking beyond outer appearances and helping all of us when we were most in need. You greeted us as equals and treated us with respect and we want to honor that with our class gift. Personally, this gift means so much because it will help Thrive continue this work with others who come into the office - especially when we are nervous, emotional and struggling. Thank you, Rosemary, Mary, and all of the others who make the center so welcoming.
We, the Student Senate, Class of 2019, would like to present the Thrive Center with a monetary donation to support the food pantry. This donation will sustain the food pantry for one year and provide operational supplies that will last for years to come. Our class is making a contribution that will directly affect the lives of future students.
Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of THOUGHTFUL citizens can change the world."
Let's change the world!
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO