Kelley F. Garland ’16, senior class president and a global studies major, will travel to the Czech Republic in August to teach English through a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship.
Welcome parents, family members, friends, faculty, staff, alumni, honored guests, and, of course, graduating members of the Class of 2016. It is a privilege to represent my peers and speak to you all today.
In my freshman year Development of Western Civilization seminar, we had the most riveting debate about fate versus free will. Was it in God’s divine plan for each of us to live the life we will, or are we each in control of our own destiny? I am not up here to provide an answer, but to ask us all to reflect on each of our journeys to this day. Whether you believe it was fate, free will, or a mix of both, Providence College will be part of our personal histories for all of time to come.
Today will be the last time we will all be together, although it is not the first time. Our Providence College timeline has intertwined a few times over the last four years — freshman orientation, senior ring weekend, commencement week. This community will always be our home, no matter what our futures hold.
Every day for the last few weeks, I woke up feeling differently about my future. Some days I was thrilled, other days I was petrified. We are sitting here today, unsure about what will happen over the next few months. I think we need to remind ourselves that today is called commencement for a reason — we are beginning a new phase of our lives. Our world does not end because we are graduating PC.
Yet we are so fortunate to be graduates of Providence College, because this institution gave us the tools to confront life’s uncertainties; we were never handed the answers.
With a liberal arts education and our relationships built within this community, we can achieve anything. We gained skills that allow us to think for ourselves and communicate our ideas effectively. Use those skills to articulate your thoughts about the challenges our world is facing and keep your ears and heart open to opposition. Never stop exploring— they say that you find yourself in college. I challenge that mindset: if we learned anything at PC, we learned that learning never stops. That includes learning about ourselves. If you find yourself waking up day after day unhappy with your position in life, reflect on what makes you happy and chase after that dream.
My friends, let’s remember we did not get to this monumental day on our own. Our parents, our friends, and so many other people walked with us and shared in our accomplishments. Another lesson learned outside of the classroom at PC was the value of gratitude and the importance of saying thank you. For me, it would be my parents. So thank you Mom and Dad, for sharing in my PC journey with me.
Providence College has also strengthened our hearts through our many relationships built with love here. We are the friendships and frustrations forged the Sunday before our first Civ final; we are the mentees of our dedicated and selfless faculty and staff; we are about to enter the alumni network. Those relationships were shaped over special moments that are now some of our most treasured memories. We all have friendships that will stand the test of time: people who will be in our wedding parties, people we will text any time we see Friar Dom on ESPN — they are people that we met attending Providence College, whether because of fate or free will.
Although our time here at Providence College is finite, the impact of what this place has allowed on each of our own individual lives is not. It is the people that make this place so special. Thankfully, that means there will always be a little piece of Friartown nearby. So no matter where life’s journey takes us, remember we will be more than okay; we will always be Friars. Congratulations Class of 2016, we did it!
Read more about Fulbright recipients Kelley Garland '16 and Abbey Guerino '16