My name is Kaitlyn Fales, and I am here to celebrate our unique stories as a part of Mount Wachusett Community College. There are two key words that I ask you to remember once I conclude: unique, and community. Why? These two words may not mean more to you now than a few consonants and vowels, but they are the foundation behind what I believe to be the legacy of Mount Wachusett Community College.
The past two years of my life have been filled with eye-opening encounters that have shaped the way I live and have helped me see the world in new and different lenses. I am proud of my unique journey and all of the steps it took to reach this podium today, and I will never forget about my time here at MWCC.
I believe in redefining “normal.” Most people associate the word “normal” with a state of mind you are supposed to have, or a predetermined statistic for how you should look and go about your life as soon as you start it. Overall, we are told to “be normal” and “fit in.” I have realized though that normal is not the standard that I wish to compare myself to, and instead, I want to show my differences to the world, and help other appreciate theirs.
I am an early college student through the Pathways Program at the college, and I am proud to represent a relatively new age category at the college level. My age has not stopped me from getting involved on campus, succeeding academically, or meeting new people. One of my best friends happens to be an inspiring and hardworking mother to six children, and she still manages a full course load every semester.
Every single person in this crowd is different, I can guarantee you that. The MWCC community embraces all people and celebrates our differences. Whether you are a single mom, a teenager, or this is your first time returning to college after many years, everybody is able to find their niche. MWCC has helped me redefine “normal” for myself and make the new standard “unique.”
To build on that, I want you to think of a time when someone either criticized you for being yourself or tried to tell you that you were not “good enough.” Not too long ago, when I was a child, I was told that all too often. I became so afraid of this figure in my life that I would completely shut down. I felt as if I was operating on auto-pilot. The kids at school were not polite either. You would be given a label or judged constantly for simply not following the social norm. What happened to “just be yourself, they will love you?”
Once I joined MWCC, I felt I could start over for the first time in my life. I could finally experience the freedom to be my own person. People actually cared about my stories and aspirations and worked with me to achieve my goals. I did not allow others to define me, and I hope that none of you will allow others to dictate whether you are good enough.
I can promise you that there are people who do believe in you. For me, those people came in the form of my friends, family, and the MWCC community. The people we surround ourselves with make all of the difference in who we become. For you all to have made it to this point today, I can assure you that you are all more than good enough. You are sensational.
You are also more than just a number here. Every professor will know your name when you walk in the door. Does that not feel better than just being known by your ID number? With so much technology accessible at our fingertips, it becomes effortless to rely on technology over a person-to-person conversation. Our world seems to have lost its personal touch, but Mount Wachusett has remained committed to the face-to-face conversation.
That experience will not carry over to every other institution. We have the chance to network with professionals in their respective fields every day, not to mention without picking up a phone. I value the ability to be in a community of people who I can ask questions to and rely on for a solution. All of this is available at our disposal here. I hope that as you all move on to the workplace or to a four-year school, you will carry the personal touch of the MWCC community with you.
The memories made during my time at Mount Wachusett Community College will be cherished forever because it marks the time that I finally became myself. I did not have to conform to any specific standards, and I knew I had the support behind me to accomplish my goals. As for what MWCC means to me, it is more of a complex answer than one would imagine. To Professor Maldonado, MWCC means the “opportunity to teach and help students achieve their dreams.” To Lisa Caron, MWCC means the “celebration of the achievements of those we come to know.” To Hannah Zanni, MWCC means “opportunity.”
Everyone may have a slightly different interpretation, but ultimately, their thoughts still boil down to simple consonants and vowels. To me, MWCC means the opportunity for students to excel in their interests, share their unique stories, and build a family-like community that will last a lifetime.