Words of Wisdom from Chowan University Graduates
With a history of naming superior students from the senior class to address their peers, family, and friends, Chowan University selected Kyle Davison, Zoe Beale, Richard Whitted, Chantel Roberts, Victoria Baez-Quiroz, and Rafael Goncalves to serve as commencement speakers for the 2018 ceremony.
One hundred seventy years after the founding, Chowan University graduated the largest class in the school’s history. This year, Chowan celebrated 234 graduates as fellow seniors shared their accumulated lessons; however, their sentiments serve as fantastic advice for incoming students.
Kyle Davison of Durham, NC, delivered the first speech. He reminisced about his experiences and the relationships he enjoyed as a student. “The moments I will cherish most are those with the people here at Chowan. I found a family here that I will never forget. Dr. Corina Wack as my Chowan mom, and Dr. Moore as the greatest father figure I never saw coming. These relationships are only the tip of the iceberg and they will last a lifetime.” Those relationships provided the support he needed to persevere. “Chowan had faith in us in the past, has faith in us in the present, and will continue to have faith in all of us in the future.”
“Four years ago, some of us couldn’t imagine seeing this day,” began Richard Whitted of Durham, NC. “The obstacles we all had to overcome may have been the hardest test we have ever taken. Some of us lost loved ones, became ill, or lost hope. Despite what was thrown in our way, by the grace of God, we made it.” Whitted attributes much of his success to people at Chowan. “Chowan has always stood by the motto, 'Faith in your Future.' It was this faith that allowed me to become the person I am today.” Though there were times he did not see his own potential, the Chowan faculty and staff did. “I was always pushed to the best of my ability by my professors and faculty. For that, I am extremely grateful.”
Zoe Beale of Courtland, VA, spoke about opportunities in college and in life. She was shy and reserved when she began her undergraduate career, reluctant to come out of her comfort zone. “Chowan led me out of that comfort zone, and even with my fear of failure, I followed.” Chowan gave her many opportunities not only to succeed, but to surpass her own personal expectation of what she could achieve. “We must not let the fear of failure hold us back. We must learn to trust in ourselves so we will not only be successful, but we will be wise,” she closed. “We will not let chances pass us by. We will look back fondly on what Chowan has offered us: an opportunity to know success is always within our reach.”
“Ask yourself ‘What do I want to achieve in life?’” Chantel Roberts of Suffolk, VA, implored fellow graduates. “Visualize yourself achieving each step of your dream. That will form the blueprint for success.” Roberts admits obstacles can be a deterrent, but believes perseverance never fails. “We were always told the sky is the limit, but someone once left footprints on the moon. This moment is one we dreamed of as children. We did not know which school we would attend, but we visualized ourselves walking across this stage.”
Victoria Baez-Quiroz of Miami, FL, like many of her comrades, did not know what to expect on her journey to earn a bachelor’s degree. “Today, we graduate and take one step further into life- the unpredictable life,” she began. “As we approach challenging days, let us remember the faculty who had our backs, the phone calls to our families who prayed for us, and the friend we went to for a laugh because just one laugh made the entire day.” Baez-Quiroz encouraged graduates to remember the relationships and experiences that helped them sustain faith in their futures. “It was these that led us to where we are today.”
Rafael Goncalves of Sao Paulo, Brazil, began by thanking the people who supported him on his journey, “Your love and trust have always inspired me to be the best in everything I do.” He then reflected on the experiences that ultimately led him to Chowan, “Never give up on your dreams, no matter how hard they seem.” He shared that he was born into a poor family and lived in a dangerous part of the city. His mom was their only source of income and they sometimes struggled to eat. Despite these challenges, Goncalves tried something different: tennis. His dream to become a collegiate athlete and attend a university in America developed from his love for tennis. It was not easy, but he did not let the difficulties intimidate him. “The best way to spend your time here on earth is doing what you love. That will bring you a successful and fulfilling life.”
These words of wisdom, shared by seniors, are not only relevant to their fellow graduates, but to each student who will follow. Each journey, while unique, will have struggles and victories along the way. However, the underlying advice that resonates is never give up, rely on your village, and know your worth.