At the May 2018 Pathways Early College Innovation School and the Gateway to College graduation, four student speakers shared their story of having completed their high school degree and gotten college credits at the same time at MWCC. These speeches were given by the valedictorians from each program as well as a student from each program who was picked through an application process. We have gathered their full speeches together in a series we are calling Choosing MWCC Dual-Enrollment.
Kaitlyn Fales, the Pathways Early College Innovation School Valedictorian, is a Townsend resident and former Nashoba Valley Tech student. She has completed her Business Administration Transfer Associate’s Degree with a perfect 4.0 and was a winner of the Business Administration Curriculum Award at the Evening of Excellence. She is also a President’s Key recipient. She will be attending Bryant University to study Business and Actuary Science this fall.
Good evening everyone, and congratulations. My name is Kaitlyn Fales, and I am proud to represent Pathways Early College Innovation School as your Class of 2018 Valedictorian. Before I truly begin, I would like to thank some extremely important people. Thank you, President Vander Hooven, for promoting early college programs and for making the students your priority. Thank you, Natalie Mercier, for being the incredible director of the Pathways program, and the mentor of many students here tonight, including myself. Thank you, Fagan Forhan, for being my Phi Theta Kappa advisor, and for being an inspiration to me. Thank you to my fellow students for motivating me to achieve levels of success I never thought possible. Thank you to the families and friends here tonight to support your students, because I can guarantee that none of us could have made it here without you. Most of all though, I would like to thank my family for being here to support me tonight. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Amanda, Hailey, Jay, and Susie. These past two years have been quite the roller coaster, but you all have remained by my side no matter what. I cannot even begin to fully express how grateful I am for all of you.
Now, I want to share a story with you about confidence. You are all here to celebrate your academic and personal achievements as a part of Mount Wachusett Community College. I do want to take a step back from that though, and touch upon the struggles you faced to reach this point in time. For me, my struggle was confidence. I had grown up with little to no self-esteem, even while I was very successful in school. The source of the issue was at home. My biological mother would consistently put my sister and I down, and it got worse after my parents’ divorce. She was able to have so much power over me that I would feed into anything she said, no matter how hurtful it was. I believed her every word. My dad remarried, and I am thankful that my stepmother became my mom because she was able and willing to raise me when my biological parent decided not to. A couple of years went by, and with that came custody battles and more heartache. Then, my biological mother made the decision that completely shifted how I viewed myself, others, and the world around me. She had finally decided that her life would be better without my sister and I in it. She moved away, kept in contact for a short period, but eventually, there was no more contact. To this day, I have not spoken to, or heard from the woman who was supposed to be my mother in nearly five years.
Her decision to leave nearly broke me because I could never imagine that a mother could do that to her child. I felt worthless. My own mother did not even believe that I was good enough to remain in her life. My life cycled in and out of depressive episodes for years. From the outside, I was able to look like the happiest girl in the world, but on the inside, I felt as if I was running on auto-pilot just to dull my pain. It was around this time that I was in my sophomore year of high school and started to seriously consider a dual enrollment program. A few months later, I applied to Pathways, and was overjoyed once I received my acceptance. I was terrified to try something new and leave everything familiar behind. I still had doubts in my ability, and worried constantly that this program might be more than I could handle. However, I knew I owed it to myself to see this program through and work hard every single day. I followed through on that promise. Not a single day has been easy for me, but every moment brought me closer to this point. Looking back now, I can easily say that I am a completely different person than I was when I first walked through the doors. I stepped outside of my comfort zone, made friends, joined clubs, and became a true leader on campus. Without even noticing, I began to gain confidence, and I was able to tell myself that I was worth it, even if my mother did not believe it. I can stand here today and tell you all that I believe in myself again.
I have no doubt in my mind that you all have encountered your own struggles during your journey here. I am also sure that there have been or are people in your life who have affected you negatively or told you that you were not good enough. Well, let me tell you this now; you have all started college at least a year early. You have been immersed in a college campus as a full-time student while still in high school. You have exceeded all expectations. Not many people can say that, but I can confidently say that you are all more than good enough, you are sensational. The challenges you have overcome, whether academic or personal, have shaped you into who you are now: a scholar, a leader, an innovator. Every step you have made toward today is another piece in the puzzle. In the words of Norm Bossio, “Maybe a jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for life. We are all trying to make the many pieces fit, keeping the pieces together, and trying to find a sense of value by successfully finishing everything we start.” As of today, we are finishing the part of the puzzle that is our early college experience. Pathways has redefined who I am, and I am thankful for finally being allowed to become myself. My name is Kaitlyn Fales, and now you know of my journey to becoming the confident scholar I am today. I have completed my portion of the puzzle, and now it is time to celebrate the completion of yours. Thank you.