'Your Authentic Self'
"As you make connections and expand your web, please remember to lead with love, lead with joy, lead with kindness, and be brave enough to be your authentic self and hold space for others to do the same in your presence ..." – Sheila Gould
Commencement 2022 Faculty Address
By SHEILA GOULD
HCC associate professor of Education
Recipient of the 2022 Elaine Marieb Award for Teaching Excellence
Thank you, Dr. Mathis for the wonderful introduction. I am the youngest of a family of eight children so it feels strange to not have to talk over anyone!
I am absolutely honored to address the Holyoke Community College graduating class of 2022! For some reason, the biggest moments in my life seem to align with some sort of anniversary.
Twenty years ago today, I graduated from Holyoke High School. I have three beautiful children. All of my children were born on a family member's wedding anniversary. I was the 50th Grand Colleen of the Holyoke St Patrick's Day Parade. That reminds me ... President Royal, can you hand me that, please?
(Pres. Royal hands Sheila tiara)
Thank you. That's better. Back to anniversaries ... Today, I get to address you all on the 75th anniversary of HCC and it is truly a dream come true for this Holyoke girl.
If you have met me, you know that I have a minor ... well, major obsession with all things Eric Carle. In particular, my little friend the Very Hungry Caterpillar. When reflecting on his book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and its illustrations, Eric Carle describes how the story is one about hope. For the past two years, we have had to cling to hope, and often dig for it. But you all did more than hope. You worked towards a goal and achieved it.
For me, teaching at HCC throughout the pandemic made it easy to be hopeful. I get to help people become teachers. It is an honor and a responsibility and I am continuously inspired by those who choose a career in education. I have found that HCC students show passion, dedication and fortitude each and every semester.
For 75 years, HCC has been a beacon of hope and opportunity in and out of the classroom. Eager to learn more about a topic and start a career, this is the place!
Looking to make friends and find belonging, come on in! Need someone trustworthy to talk to, no problem.
Need help with transportation, housing, or food? We have got you. And now ... need help with child care? WE. HAVE. GOT. YOU!
There are still more reasons that HCC shines and my favorite reason is all of us. According to Fred Rogers, my other obsession, "The greatest gift you ever give is your authentic self." I think the greatest gift that HCC gives is the invitation to come learn and work as your authentic self. Your whole self.
I know that to be true personally as a former HCC student and now as a faculty member. When I first started to work at HCC, I was afraid that I wouldn't fit in in higher ed. I was teaching preschoolers one week and college students at HCC the next. I sing when I wash my hands. I wear really bright colors and I am overly enthusiastic when I greet someone. As an early childhood professional, I am trained to have an animated demeanor. This may not bode well in Zoom meetings at times but it is who I am.
At first, I assumed that I would have to change to fit into higher ed. Be more serious. Speak more formally. Dress in neutral tones. I worried that my extremely expressive personality would not be welcome. I could not have been more wrong. I have been able to laugh, create and collaborate with colleagues across campus. I have interacted with students who shared their biggest fears and dreams with me. I have celebrated and comforted.
I was able to come to HCC, and succeed because I was able to be my authentic self in this space. Growing up in Holyoke, I knew HCC's campus in other ways. I attended DARE camp on campus, I watched my siblings' track practices and meets here, and my dad taught me to drive in the parking lots.
My real HCC story began when I was 21 years old and had to take a class at HCC to obtain work in a local preschool. Little did I know that one day, my professor would be my colleague and mentor. Thank you, Mary Lynch.
Be sure to remember how your HCC story started. I wonder where it will take you?
Your professors, and the staff who supported you, truly care about you. My students, those early education heroes sitting among you, know that I refer to the feedback I leave on their work as my love notes. I tell them to read it and hear my cheerful voice in their head encouraging them along. I know what it feels like to read faculty feedback on your work that changes you.
Once, while I was teaching preschool and working on my master's at night, I got a paper back in class. My professor wrote something on it that changed my life and changed how I saw myself. She wrote: "You will be a leader in this field." Thank you, Dr. Barbara Dautritch.
A leader? Me? I respected her too much to dismiss the words. She believed in me and I would not let her down. I would find a way to be a leader in early education and care just as I know my students will too.
Your fields need you too. Your professors and the staff at HCC believe in you. You could never let us down because we already know what you are made of. You showed us every day by the choices you made that got you to today. I told you I have some sort of kismet connection with anniversaries and I think it is a reminder that celebrations are important.
Milestones, big and little, deserve celebration. Life is unexpected. Celebrate when you can. Celebrate yourself and celebrate others.
Today, I want to celebrate the graduates of the HCC class of 2022 for all the ways they have succeeded.
Please cheer with your whole heart when applicable.
Cheer if you are a first generation graduate!
Cheer if you worked while in school!
Cheer if you cared for children and family while in school!
Cheer if you dreaded online learning but did it anyway!
Cheer if you have a wonderful support system or if you did this independently!
And lastly .... cheer if you went to college in a global pandemic!
These accomplishments may seem itsy bitsy as you get through your day-to-day commitments but together, they form the many small connections that make a very strong web.
As you make connections and expand your web, please remember to lead with love, lead with joy, lead with kindness, and be brave enough to be your authentic self and hold space for others to do the same in your presence.
Congratulations class of 2022. I am so proud of you, just the way you are.
PHOTO: Sheila Gould delivers the faculty address at Commencement June 4.