'I'm not failing'

DATE: Monday, June 4, 2018

"I said to myself, 'Well, I'm going to college to get some knowledge, because I'm not failing."

HCC Commencement speaker Jaritza Rosario

On Saturday, June 2, student orator Jaritza Rosario received her associate degree in business administration from HCC. In her Commencement address, Rosario talked about starting her own company, Florr, and how wanting to succeed as an entrepreneur motivated her to enroll at HCC to study business. Jaritaza was also featured in an HCC Student Profile in 2016.

Below is the full text of her remarks:

Good morning everyone! How are you guys feeling today?

I would like to thank families, friends, staff, professors, and everyone for coming to join us in celebrating this day.

Graduates of 2018, we did it!

It's such an honor to be up here on this day. My name is Jaritza Rosario. I'm passionate about nature. I'm passionate about the environment and I love flowers. My love of flowers is the reason why I started a business called Florr. Florr is jewelry made from Flowers. Real flowers. This necklace that I'm wearing has flowers picked by me from Isla Bonita, Puerto Rico!  

Today, I think of my fellow Puerto Ricans who suffered the devastation of Hurricane Maria. I think of you and my heart weakens because I know that there are many of you today without water or electricity. Our thoughts and prayers are with you always.  

Since humans are not the only ones that love flowers, my business will contribute to saving the bees: every piece of jewelry sold will help me plant more flowers. Looking into the future, I will also establish scholarships to students and entrepreneurs here and in Puerto Rico who have a passion for saving the environment. I started this company before I came to HCC, and being here has allowed me to enhance and develop my skills to continue to grow my business and follow my dreams.  

You see, I was not a school kind of girl. I dropped out of middle school. I never went to high school. Being young and hearing all the wrong stuff in music, watching nonsense on TV and being surrounded by all the wrong influences, made it hard for me to understand that education was really important.  

Also, during my teen years, I was going through a lot: I lost my faith in myself, trust in people, and hope in the world. I felt alone. To all the people who suffer from depression, physical and/or sexual abuse, you are not alone #metoo.  

I kept on telling myself, "You are strong, and you are fearless." What I can tell you is that it takes time; time heals, but it is a different process for everyone. I found myself when I found my love for nature and that's when my vision for Florr became my motivation. I had the passion to succeed but not the skills. I remember going home to look up words like net income, gross margin and I still was not getting it, but one thing I do remember while doing my research is reading something that I will never forget. It said that 80% of businesses fail within the first three years because of lack of knowledge.  I said to myself, "Well, I'm going to college to get some knowledge because I'm not failing."  

I remember my first semester at HCC. I wanted to give up. I didn't know how college worked. I had to get used to reading, and let me tell you I had to have my phone next to me at all times to Google words like "vague" or "revenue." I didn't even know how to write an essay, and now here I am, reading one to you at graduation. I had to constantly remind myself that if other people can do it, I can do it too.  

College isn't easy. I had to stay late nights because I didn't have a computer, and when my car wasn't working, I took the shuttle bus home. Thank God for La Guagua! Many times I had no money, so I went without food, and despite these struggles, I advanced to college level in all subjects. If I was to turn around time I would do it all over again.  

Throughout my time at HCC I have met so many great people. I want to recognize the college moms and those students who, despite their struggles, including homelessness, they continue to persist. Literally, it takes a village. I want to give a huge thanks to the Tutoring Center. I was there so much that I became one of their work-study students.

Thank you for being there for all of us when we needed it. I have also met so many great professors: Ellen Majka, who was also my advisor, Leah Russell, Erica Bergquist, Kate Maiolatesi, Lois Koltz and Mary Orisich; thank you for being such awesome professors and believing in me.  I'm glad that I chose HCC for my journey.

Throughout my time here I realized that I would rather read a book than turn on the TV, I learned that I like school and I also learned to take risks. Because of that, I became an alumna of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the Valley Venture Mentors program. I am also glad to announce that I will be starting up a second business, but I'm not going to tell you just yet, so stay tuned.  

I'm sure we are all going to miss this place. All the people we met, all the times we fought our cozy bed on those cold mornings. All the memories created here. We all have to move on to our next chapter in life but HCC will always be a part of us. I feel like HCC gave me another opportunity in life. One of my dreams was to be here today, at graduation, speaking to you and having my family and friends watch me graduate; and guess what? I am.

To all my family and friends, I love you!  

In the words of Audre Lorde, "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."  

Thank you.  And, once again, congratulations.

PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: Student orator Jaritza Rosario talks to the Class of 2018 at HCC's 71st Commencement June 2 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.