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COmmencement Archive

Ivy Day Speech: Shishona Jones ’12

Shishona Jones, a member of the Class of 2012, delivered the student speech at Smith College’s Ivy Day celebration on Saturday, May 19.

Good morning. I am Shishona Jones, a proud member of the Class of 2012.

As a young girl, I knew that I wanted to be a doctor and nothing would get in the way of reaching that goal. During my junior year at DeWitt Clinton High School in Bronx, NY (a school of 5,000 students — larger than the crowd here today!), an unexpected opportunity actually brought me closer. I attended a meeting about a scholastic program, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America — also known as LEDA — that was looking for new students. I knew this was something that I needed in order to get ahead, so I filled out the application and sent it off hoping for the best. Weeks later, in my mailbox I found the BIG envelope.

I immediately rushed off to share the good news with my mom who was taking care of my terminally ill father in a nursing home. I remember the delight on her face, as I read the letter to my father who smiled and nodded his head in pride. That June, I started LEDA and met Angela Conley — Ms. C, as we called her — a guidance counselor who played a key role in advancing my journey to college and introducing me to Smith. When she asked me for the list of colleges in which I was interested, she turned to me and said, “Shishona, I noticed that you have no single sex colleges on your list.” My facial expression said it all — the idea had never even crossed my mind! Ms. C told me about Smith and how the college is widely recognized for its liberal arts education, especially in the sciences. Eventually, she talked me into applying.

However, when I went to my high school guidance counselor excited about applying to Smith, he immediately told me that Smith was challenging and alluded to the fact that I might not be prepared to survive — let alone succeed. No surprise...this made me even more determined to be accepted to Smith.

So, I sent off my application once again hoping to see the BIG envelope, this time marked Smith. I was ecstatic! I was even happier when I saw my financial aid package — for which I want to thank all of you. The next morning, I rushed to my guidance counselor with the letter in hand. At first he was speechless, then he congratulated me.

My first semester at Smith was a rollercoaster ride as I tried to adapt to my independence and the academic expectations of Smith. Introductory Biology was one of the classes that challenged me and confirmed Smith’s rigorous curriculum — it even gave me a headache taking my first exam. I quickly took advantage of the remarkable resources on campus to turn things around, and I told myself never again would a take a class with Professor Michael Baressi. Ironically, last fall, I chose to take Developmental Biology with Dr. Baressi and had a transformative experience, which attests to how well other classes at Smith prepared me, and how much I had grown academically.

Dr. Mary Harrington is another influential science professor, and I will forever be grateful to her for giving me the chance to grow as an individual. In Neuroscience lab one day, she came over with a smile on her face and said, “Shishona, you have great hands; you’re so meticulous.” She recognized my potential and urged me to join her research lab to further my skills. Without hesitation, she took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know. At the time, I was juggling classes, involved in Black Students Alliance, and was a House Community Adviser for Res Life, but research was always a passion of mine — with the hope of helping my father. With the invitation to join her lab, I took advantage of the opportunity to study chronic fatigue. I gained valuable experience and learned so much that I now want to continue conducting research.

After completing my sophomore year at Smith, I lost my father — shortly after my 20th birthday. Losing a parent, especially during a time in your life when you are transitioning to adulthood, is difficult. Returning to Smith in the fall, I received a hand-written card from President Christ expressing her deepest sympathy and letting me know that Smith was here to help any way it could. I felt so valued as a member of Smith’s community. Thank you, President Christ.

I am truly grateful for all the experiences, triumphs, and obstacles that have given me a solid foundation to thrive and to touch the lives of others. Smith has coached me into a confident, well-rounded young woman, ready to take on the world and to take advantage of everything the world has to offer.

Smith has helped me transform my dream of becoming a surgeon into more of a reality, and I’m willing to give it 110 percent. Smith will always have a special place in my heart — as it has in yours — and has helped me to realize that these hands will change the lives of others, as you have changed mine. Thank you for supporting Smith and making it possible for me and others to attend this exceptional college, where I have grown into the dynamic person I am today.

Thank you and enjoy your day.