As a proud first-generation college student, I am grateful for the opportunities I had at the University of New Haven – both in and out of the classroom. I wanted to commend my fellow graduates and encourage them to keep pushing forward.
May 23, 2022
We have had a very unconventional college experience, from wearing masks, doing school remotely, Joe Exotic, to now graduating! It has been nothing but tests and hurdles, but I want to let you all know that our hard work and our dedication have pushed us to get this degree, even if it seems the world is falling apart around us. You did that.
Allow me to introduce myself to those who may not know me. My name is Adrielys Gómez, and as a proud first-generation college student, I stand before you today to share my experience and hopefully inspire people like me to achieve their dreams as well.
I want to share with you all today, a famous quote from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, “Young people have a duty to defend their country with the weapons of knowledge.” This translates in English to, “The youth must defend the country with the weapons of knowledge.”
‘I had to learn to love school again’
There is power in education, there is power in pushing through. It’s important for those of us who are first-generation students that we are not only the first but to make sure we are not the last.
I am from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. To those of you who may not be aware, it is a town close by to San Juan. This is where I grew up, where I learned to read, write and learn to love education. Somewhere along the way, my parents decided we should move to the states, for more opportunities, and for a better education.
In my first year in the states, I had to relearn how to love school again. Spanish was my first language and although English is spoken on my island, I was not as knowledgeable in it as I am now. I went from being a straight-A student to not being able to do my work due to the language barrier.
I remember walking around with a dictionary to look up words as I would be spoken to. I had to learn to love school again. I specifically remember not being able to spell the word because. I would always forget the “u.” I would say it out loud be-ca-u-se.
‘Keep pushing through’
Fast forward to my first year in college, I was the pride of my family back home. I became the go-to person to talk to about college and helping my cousins back on the island to apply for scholarships and think of college as something that is attainable to them, as it was to me.
“Let’s recall the good times, but let’s also look ahead and envision our future, whatever it may hold.”Adrielys Gomez ’22
Many of you may not understand the importance of this small gesture, but, to me, it means the world. Because of my sacrifices and my sleepless nights learning how to spell words such as because, and working on my thesis and publications in order to stand in front of you today, I have become the reason for people to see education as something they can achieve too .
I say all of this to encourage you to keep pushing through. Don’t let your barriers end your story. Let them add fuel to your passion. I want you all to recall core memories from your time here at the University of New Haven, those times where you knew this is exactly where you belonged at this point in time.
‘Your success is our success’
I distinctly recall last year’s Celebration of Excellence, the International Festivals, the chalk your flags events, and the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s tea time during SOAR. All of these times, I was surrounded by individuals who came from various backgrounds and cultures, but we all had one goal in common: getting that degree. And, yes Cs do get degrees, too!
All jokes aside, I hope Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos’ quote: “The youth must defend their country with the weapons of knowledge,” which translates to, “The youth must defend the country with the weapons of knowledge,” sticks with you.
Let’s recall the good times, but let’s also look ahead and envision our future, whatever it may hold. I ask of you today to continue pushing and continue making the spaces you find yourself in your home.
Your success is our success. What you accomplish creates avenues for others to accomplish their dreams as well. If you win, we are all winning! So, thank you. Thank you for your time, and thank you for allowing me to be in front of you today, just a small island girl making her dreams of her come true. Class of 2022, we did it!
Adrielys Gómez ’22 recently earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of New Haven. She was one of nearly 40 undergraduate and graduate students who applied to address their classmates as part of Commencement. She was one of 12 selected to give a live audition, and she was chosen as an alternate to address graduates at the afternoon ceremony.