Student Commencement Address 2015
Milanes Morejon ’15
Milanes Morejon, president of the Class of 2015, delivered the student speech at Smith College’s 137th commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 17.
Good morning! First, I would like to congratulate all of the members of the class of 2015...the countdown is over, and we’ve made it!
Next, I would like to welcome all of our friends, families, professors, administrators and staff who are celebrating the closing of a beautiful chapter with us. You’ve all made a mark in our lives both in and out of the classroom, and for that we thank you. Dad, Mom, I’m here because of you.
I would also like to thank all of the wonderful people that have put this event together to make sure it is a successful and memorable one including the Events Management Office, Facilities Management, the Office of Student Engagement, Campus Police, Dining Services and our Reunion workers.
My time at Smith has allowed me to begin a beautiful process of academic and personal growth. I arrived to Northampton from Roxbury, Massachusetts in August of 2011 to begin the Bridge Program, an orientation for students of color that was spearheaded by the Director of Multicultural Affairs, L’Tanya Richmond. I remember feeling sad about leaving home and nervous about beginning a new journey away from my parents. I would have informal conversations with students about the academic rigor, what a convocation was, and the type of food served in Cushing-Emerson house. I also wondered what the PVTA was, and what my Jordan House community would be like. By the end of Bridge, we looked up to our leaders and wondered how they navigated the institution, and how we could one day be like them. They never questioned whether this was the right place for us. Instead, they provided us with the tools to move forward and assured us that we would survive our undergraduate years.
I would like for every graduating senior to take a few moments to reflect on what brought you to this moment and who has helped you on your journey. It may have been a professor who challenged you and dedicated their office hours to ensure your success in the class. It may have been a person at the Lazarus Center for Career Development who asked you about professional goals and helped you land a summer internship. It could have been the endless calls to your loved ones and friends who provided you with updates about the life outside of the Smith bubble. Or a roommate, in my case Ayla Ahmed, who reminded you that you are valuable and would make it to this day and cross this stage.
Through tears and laughter, we have made it. Some of us will be starting fellowships, such as the Fulbright, this fall. Others will be starting graduate school or have accepted full-time job offers at financial institutions, schools and nonprofit organizations across the world.
Some of us are exploring our options, figuring out next steps, and know that our Smith education has prepared us for whatever is to come. We are individuals of promise, with a wealth of experience and knowledge that we can bring into any workplace. I can honestly say that I feel empowered and prepared to pass through the Grécourt Gates into the real world.
In this institution, we have built a community that has enabled us to create and sustain change. We have in our own ways, affirmed each other’s humanity. I would like to give a shout out to our Ada Comstock Scholars, international and transfer students — as well as to those in our class with marginalized identities including students of color, disabled, first-generation, low-income, working-class, queer, transgender, or an intersection of all. Many of you exemplify what it means to be an agent of change — whether it was through organizing a group of almost 150 students to attend the Millions March in New York City or creating the inaugural Five College Disabilities Alliance Conference.
We may be small in numbers, but we have used this space to practice vulnerability and to engage in collective healing — taking the steps to build the world we want to live in. We all deserve to be here and, even though pain and hurt, we have worked together to make Smith ours. We have worked together to contest systemic and institutional injustice and have demanded more from those around us. We have stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, fought and continue to fight for undocumented student rights and advocated for transwomen admission policies. I would like to encourage every single one of us to make social justice a part of our life’s work. Let us practice authentic kindness and create the world we want. As Smithies, I am positive we can do it.
My fellow seniors, you are all beautiful, intelligent and resilient. Your stories are unique, and you have overcome adversities to be here. As we prepare to go into the next chapter of our lives, remember to practice humility and patience. Take time for self-care and decompression, and learn how to be your best and authentic self. Do not apologize for being human. Do not fear change; instead take advantage of the myriad opportunities for growth as they present themselves to you. We need to take care of ourselves and of each other, practicing love and care within our communities. Some of my favorite professors and mentors have been people who encouraged me to be vulnerable and to see how all of our histories are interconnected. Let’s take the Smith diploma not only as a token of privilege to have graduated from such a prestigious institution, but also, as an opportunity to impact the world in a positive way.
I will leave with the words of Mia Mingus, whose activism works towards a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love, “We must practice a love that will set us free.” Thank you and congratulations, Class of 2015!