2016 Remarks at CW's 100th Commencement Ceremony

Mary Beth Del Balzo2016 Remarks at CW's 100th Commencement Ceremony

May 26, 2016

As delivered.

Good evening and welcome.  It is my pleasure to congratulate you and to celebrate together in The College of Westchester’s 101st year and 100th Commencement Ceremony! 

I have been involved with CW for over 35 of those years, and I have seen many amazing changes here at CW.  Tonight you are that change.  In the words of Mahatma Gandhi; “be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Tonight you celebrate as GRADUATES having successfully negotiated the path of college and the challenges it can bring.  Completing college is no small feat, as you now know, considering jobs, family, friends and many other things to juggle!  As a mother of two daughters, 28 and 30 years old, a college president, a wife, daughter, sister, friend, associate, therapist and colleague, I understand what it takes to juggle multiple priorities.  I have been both a traditional college student as a young adult and an adult working full-time and raising my family while attending college.  As a traditional student, my study skills were not developed, I was not certain of my career path and it was hard to stay motivated, but I did graduate!  There was no way I would squander the opportunity.  I knew I had to graduate!  As an adult, I knew what I wanted, had a definite dream, was very motivated and my whole family sacrificed and dreamed along with me.  My girls were both in high school at the time.  Success can seem elusive at times; there are many bumps, obstacles and even some mountains on the path.  You have succeeded, you are here, and this is just one step in what will be a long history of continued achievement. 

Thank goodness we are not in this alone!  We have others to help us on our journey; classmates, faculty, administrators and of course your wonderful family and friends who help to get us through difficult times and celebrate the good times.  Let’s take a moment to THANK all those that never gave up on you.  Hopefully they are here celebrating with you! 

Studies prove that college graduates have a better quality of life due to increased earnings and all it brings.  So, I encourage you to continue your educational journey.  The value of a college education is limitless. 

When my great-grandfather first came to the US from Poland, he left a secure life and became a grave digger in a strange land where he did not know the language or customs.  He did it for the opportunity his children and grandchildren would derive, for the improved earnings, and quality of life they could gain.  As a young man, my great grandfather’s son, my grandfather, worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines but ended up as the Police Commissioner in his local town and a successful guy.  His son, my dad, graduated from college and because a successful business person, which enabled me with the educational opportunities I had at a young age.  Today, you too have accomplished something from which your children and grandchildren will benefit.  You will be amazed as you look back, someday, on how your hard work and accomplishments affect your families in many incredibly positive ways!

At each orientation program on the first day of the new semester, a CW goal card is presented to each new student.  On the front of the card there are two words:  Believe and Achieve.  On the back is a place to write out your goals.  This goal card represents your journey, you believed in yourself and you have achieved!!!  Tonight, all your efforts and hard work become palpable, real and the intangible becomes the tangible as you become graduates and your achievements gain you the benefits that it brings.  You may measure your success in pride, happiness, security or quality of life. 

You have what it takes – don’t let anyone ever discourage you on your path to continued success.  In times of uncertainty, reflect on tonight’s celebration and all that you’ve achieved.  Remind yourself that not only do you have the education to succeed, but you also have determination, motivation, perseverance and confidence – the attributes that got you here tonight.  One of my motivational teachers told me to imagine what I want professionally.  Imagine myself doing what I was meant to do.  Then imagine any blocks in your way.  He called them the “YEAH BUT’s”.  He then said to get a broom and sweep them away.  Don’t let obstacles stand in your way.  Do not build up obstructions in your imagination.  Jump over hurdles, chop down impediments, swim through encumbrances.  Let tonight’s success define many future successes!

In conclusion, I encourage you to hold fast to tonight’s vision, your dreams realized and dreams to come, and feel your success now as you set your next big goal!  Remember to be the change you wish to see in the world.  Think about what those changes are, who you have become and who you want to be, and BE IT.  I know I speak for all our wonderful Faculty and Staff who believe in you when I say that.  We are just as excited as you – your success is our success!!  Congratulations, graduates!