2016 Remarks at CW's Adult Spring II Orientation

Mary Beth Del Balzo2016 Remarks at CW's Adult Spring II Orientation

April 28, 2016

Student Center, The College of Westchester

As delivered.

Good evening, everyone! 

For me, the only day rivaling the excitement of Commencement is New Student Orientation. They are bookends indicating a new beginning and going forward into the relative unknown.

I was of course delighted to receive a letter from President Barak Obama on the 100th Anniversary of The College of Westchester.  To quote from the August 5 letter that I received on behalf of CW today; 

The White House


“I am pleased to join in celebrating your school's 100th anniversary.

America's schools serve as gateways to opportunity and engines for our nation's progress.  Inspiring students to be the best version of themselves and equipping them with the tools to thrive, our halls of learning can instill in our next generation the fundamental belief that with hard work nothing is beyond reach.

Since your school's founding, faculty and staff have prepared students to meet the challenges of their time.  And by cultivating passion for learning, schools like yours help ensure the doors of opportunity continue to open wide for all who are willing to dream big.

I hope your community takes pride in the ways your school has touched lives.  As you celebrate in this special milestone, I wish you all the best for the years ahead.”

Barak Obama

I was so pleased that we have received this, as a stellar proprietary college. I am glad that we have been recognized for the good work which we have, in fact, been doing, for 100 years, since 1915.  Thank you, Mr. President, for recognizing us.

As students enrolling and beginning or continuing your education as adults, I know this is a serious, conscious decision to make.  Thank you, first of all, for choosing The College of Westchester.  When continuing my education as an adult, there were many of us, in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.  We were all in the same boat – nervous, wondering how we could juggle work, family obligations, classes and much schoolwork.  And I won’t lie – it is hard.  However, another phenomenon happened to me.  I loved going to school.  I sat in the class, worked online and offline, spoke with classmates, made friends, and loved every minute of it.  I felt that it was a privilege that was precious, and that I had to make the most of it, even as I fit it in around a full time job and family obligations. 

There were times that were rough financially, trying times with the family, and just pushing through and having the energy to get through it all.  Beside my family and my faith, the other things that I kept coming back to were two things.

  1.  how great it was to be able to take the time to learn new things, and to have the oasis of the classroom and studies no matter what was going on outside of college and
  2. My goal – the finish line.  What I would do with my degree when I finished. 

Those are the things that truly kept me going – that and snacks.  Haha

But seriously, PLEASE remember that you are worth it – you are worth the time, the energy, the investment and the sacrifice.  Remember these this and you will be successful. And remember to keep your eye on what you really want.  Envision it.

Close your eyes for a moment and think about why you are in college.  What do you want to get out of it?   Picture yourself on graduation day and set a goal NOW for what you want.

Now open your eyes, write it down on this goal card, and stick the card in your wallet.  Take it out and look at it periodically.  Remind yourself about that goal.

On those days and nights when you don’t want to sit at your desk and do an assignment, or the weather is so nice and you don’t want to haul your body inside and make it up to your 325 Central Avenue classroom, remember your goal.  Remember that you are worth it.  Everything you put in place, everything you learn, every sacrifice you make will be worthwhile.  And it really is all what you make it.  You can dial it in, but you will not have the same experience as if you make every day count.

Remember too that CW is unique.  We are with you every moment, working alongside of you, assisting you in reaching your dreams and helping you succeed.  You have already met some people at CW, and you will be meeting more people today and in the coming months who will be a part of your team until the day you graduate, and even beyond graduation.  Reach out to them, work with them, ask for the assistance you need and you will receive it.

In addition to that, keep in mind a very important statistic that we have seen for many years at CW.  I am sure it is the same at probably every college.  People who show up do better.  Attendance counts.  They learn more.  Their grades are better and they are more successful.

And lastly, your education is a gift you give yourself that will last forever.  You will retain much of what you learn during your time at CW. 

Let me give you an example of “retained learning”.  When I was a kid, a friend of my Dad's, Howard, decided to expand my reading and appreciation of poetry.  He gave me a book called Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle...and Other Modern Verse. I was in third grade. We just happened to have to memorize poems that year in school, and I still remember one I recited in front of my classmates, from the watermelon pickle book, called Hold Fast To Dreams, by Langston Hughes.

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly

Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams go

Life is a barren field

Frozen with snow

    ---Langston Hughes

The point, beyond holding onto your dreams, is that I learned that poem at the age of 8 as an assignment in school.  I still remember it, almost 50 years later.

The things that you learn become yours forever.  Your knowledge becomes your property, and can shape your destiny.  Holy fast to your dreams and your goals, and they will become yours.

If you can embrace your learning, the benefits are myriad!  What do you have to do?  Show up.  Take advantage of the many people at CW who are here for you.  Use CW as your oasis, knowing that no matter what happens outside of CW, that this place is here for you, your future.  I’ll see you around the halls and at graduation!

About Langston Hughes:  from wikipedia:  James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.

He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has

been renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”