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A Culture of Care

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Ivy Day Address 2019

Ingrid Magalhaes ’19

Ingrid Magalhaes speaking at the podium

Ingrid Magalhaes, a member of the Class of 2019, delivered the student speech at Smith College’s Ivy Day celebration on Saturday, May 18.

Good morning.

“Am I worthy? Am I even good enough to be here?”

I am sure that many of us have asked ourselves these two questions, and perhaps, even believed that the answer was no. Our challenges and the unknown can pose a threat to the ability to place trust in ourselves, to see and acknowledge our personal strengths.

My name is Ingrid Magalhaes. I am an Ada Comstock Scholar, a government major, and a proud member of the Class of 2019! I am also the daughter of two wonderful parents who deeply recognize the value of an education, but who never had the chance to pursue it themselves. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and to share a little bit of my story with you.

My upbringing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,allowed me to witness social injustices, crime, violence and the limited access to quality education, but it also taught me the importance of focusing my efforts to assist my fellow community members. My parents encouraged me to fully commit to all of my endeavors, from teaching music to children in the urban slums - called favelas - to organizing social events within our community. Giving one’s all was and still remains the standard in our home. Armed with these values, I moved to the United States to pursue a higher education at the age of 22. I faced great difficulties in adapting to the new environment, including the tremendous challenge of learning English as an adult. After nearly three years of language study, my dream to pursue higher education seemed within reach. Five years after arriving in America, I had completed an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut, graduating at the top of my class, and being accepted into the prestigious Ada Comstock Scholar Program at Smith College, and tomorrow, I will become the first in my family to complete a college degree.

I remember my first day at Smith. I was taking Gov. 100 with Professor Gregory White. I know some of you are not a big fan of political theory, but Professor White has his way of making students like his classes. In fact, that class changed my life. It was the very first time I had ever read Plato. My mind was blown with his claims about society, government and human nature. I wanted to read every single word of Plato’s Republic, and I did... At least during the first 2 weeks of classes, until I realized that 24 hours in a day weren’t enough to read three chapters of Plato. I felt overwhelmed and extremely stressed. That was when I began to doubt myself: “Am I worthy? Am I even good enough to be here?”

But Smith meant resourcefulness, empowerment, work, and also friendship. I was so blessed to have found friends who have become closer than siblings to me. The challenges I encountered in my classes were overcome with persistence, resilience, and with great support of friends. Thank you Diandra and Zoya for the role you have played in my academic success. 

And to Sydney, my dear fellow Ada: I will never forget a moment when you saw the heavy weight in my eyes, and you provided me with that special moment of comfort—when you looked at me and said “You are not alone.” You inspire me, I’m grateful for our friendship, and I’m proud of you.

My time at Smith has made me more confident and more aware of my strengths. It presented me with endless opportunities that I would never have imagined. Encouraged by Rebecca Hovey, the director and dean of international study, I spent the Spring 2018 semester in Geneva, Switzerland. I interned for an NGO that advocated for girls’ and young women’s rights, and spoke twice at the UN Human Rights Council. I developed a training platform for NGOs and civil society organizations on how to engage with the UN mechanisms. This platform was translated into four languages and it has been used in 10 different countries within the Asian and African continents. None of this would have been possible without the support that I received from Smith and its generous financial aid.

During my time at Smith, I encountered unexpected expenses from fixing my car to having to pay medical bills. I am grateful for the generous financial support received to alleviate some of this burden. I am especially grateful for the lives of Dean Andrea Rossi Reder and Sidonia Dalby for their love and dedication to the Ada community.

During my senior year, I began stressing out about my uncertain future. Can anyone relate to that?

As an international student, there was great pressure to find a job after graduation in order to meet visa requirements. But once again, peers, staff, and faculty played a crucial role in my success. I received great support from my dear family at the Lazarus Center for Career Development, especially from Deborah Wijnhoven. I am indebted to all of them for their unwavering support towards my professional career. I have accepted an employment offer from Sanford Heisler Sharp, a public interest law firm located in Washington D.C., where I will be working as a legal assistant for a period of one year. Then, in the Fall of 2020, I will be attending the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University!

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that some of the faculty have become as close as family to us. Ann Leone, the professor of French studies and director of the Landscape Studies Program, became a central figure in my life at Smith. From encouraging me to pursue my studies in French to completing my applications for graduate schools. Thank you, Ann, for everything you have done for me.

This morning, my heart is filled with gratitude. I thank God for every blessing that has changed the course of my life, and especially for our Alumnae and the tremendous role that you have played in our lives.

Tomorrow, the student chapter at this amazing institution officially ends as we join the Smith alumnae community. Here, we found friends, sisters, and mentors who greatly shaped our trajectory. And to my fellow peers: you ARE worthy! And you are much more than just good enough. You are the most exceptional human beings I have had the honor to meet! 

Always remember to believe in yourself, in your dreams, and in your power. When you find yourself facing self-doubt and uncertainty in any of your pursuits, remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Thank you and congratulations Class of 2019!