Below is the full transcript of the selected Senior Class Speaker Jasmine Abele’s speech given during the Mills Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14.
Good morning! I am pleased to see all of you. Dear family and friends, thank you for coming to Mills today to help us celebrate this very special moment in our lives. As we gather here to recognize the accomplishments of our graduating class of 2011, we must also acknowledge the encouragement, support, and love you have given us. We realize that we might not be here today without you.
Our journey at Mills has been a challenging, fun, and unique experience. There have been many “Ah-Hah!” moments, times of failure and success. A few tears have been shed…some in disappointment, but many more with happiness! And we now begin to realize our growth.
One question we are often asked as Mills undergraduates is “Why did you choose to go to Mills?” This is code for what people really want to know, which is “Why did you choose to go to an ‘all-girls’ school?” I am sure that you have heard the generic responses: “Mills has a great reputation,” “Small class sizes,” “Great Financial-Aid,” and my personal favorite is “To avoid distractions.” These reasons may be why some of us originally came to Mills—and there are many other explanations, but as we settled into college life and advanced in our studies we realized that it is quite easy to become distracted here so perhaps we had other reasons to stay. Just look at all of the graduates.
Most of us arrived four short years ago as young naive teenagers. Some of us transferred to Mills at different stages in our lives; after having children, grandchildren, or having started at a community college. None the less, we have all grown and blossomed into well educated and sophisticated individuals.
We have learned so much at Mills — much more than just academics. Mills taught us about social justice and the politics of privilege based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. We have learned that we must be responsible for our individual choices. We know they impact the world. We discovered and explored studies that ranged from the sciences to the arts.
We pushed ourselves and encouraged our peers to do the same. We were told and now understand that we are the future leaders of this country! We came to Mills because we believe in ourselves, and we wanted to be in a space where women’s empowerment is made a priority instead of an afterthought. We see ourselves, and each other, as peers, family, friends, and sometimes archenemies, who all share a respect for womanhood.
Now, to my fellow graduates — congratulations, Class of 2011! It has been a challenging few years hasn’t it? Fortunately, we made it through and this part of our academic lives is over. While we have learned so much and grown, undoubtedly we all have some insecurity about our future–what is next? Yes, some of us are going to graduate school; some of us are entering the work force; and there are some of us that are not sure what tomorrow brings. No matter which category you fit into, I assure you that you will be OK.
I wish I could tell you specifically what decisions should be made after today, but, of course, I cannot. However, I encourage you to think back upon your experiences at Mills. Take what you learned from this institution—from the early days when you first arrived and were not certain how, or even if, you would be able survive, until this moment as you take the stage to receive your diploma, and apply that wisdom to your future.
Do you remember your first day at Mills? I tried to introduce myself to everyone who lived in Warren Olney Hall, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t make friends. However, I quickly realized that everyone was nervous and things would eventually work out. [smile] And here I stand today with you saying good-bye to this old place and moving onto a new beginning.
Audre Lorde (an activist poet) once said in reference to the movements by black feminist and lesbians:
“It’s possible to take that as a personal metaphor and then multiply it to a people, a race, a sex, a time. If we can keep this thing going long enough, if we can survive and teach what we know, we’ll make it.”
Take your Mills experience as a personal metaphor and let it guide you to success in all of your future endeavors. I wish you the best of luck! Thank you!
Jasmine Abele (Au-bay-lay), better known by her nickname Jazzie, is originally from Los Angeles, CA. Abele prides herself in being a first generation college student and SAW student. She has played in the Mills soccer team for four years, as both a forward and mid-fielder. She has also been the ASMC Historian for two years, worked for the OSA (Office of Student Activities) and SDP (Student Diversity Programs) and won a MOCA (Mills of College Award) her first year for “Freshwoman Leader of the Year.”
This summer, Abele will be interning at the College Summit, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income high schoolers transition into college. Then she will be pursuing a masters in Information and Library Science with an MFA in Digital Art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in the Fall.
Abele is very dedicated to education and social justice. Her long term goals include becoming a college professor, starting a non-profit organization and possibly running for public office.
For more related posts, check out our Commencement page.