The School of Education was the first among University of Redlands schools to hold its 2018 Commencement on April 19, graduating 340 students.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Tyrone C. Howard, an expert on race, culture, teaching, and learning in urban schools at University of California Los Angeles.
"I need you to be willing to be fearless, to understand that the challenges that lie before you can be conquered,” Howard said to the graduating class. “I need you to be unapologetic in advocating for those who are on the margins. I need you to be bold in your determination to say that we have to stand up for those who often don’t have a voice.”
Student speaker Jasmine Monay Ball Smith ’18, who graduated with a master’s in higher education, student affairs, also addressed her fellow graduates. Here are excerpts from her speech:
In preparation for this speech, I met with Dr. [Jose] Lalas, [professor and director of the Center for Educational Justice] several times. He asked if I could recall a time when I was excited or had fun during my time here at Redlands. He didn’t know this, but in my mind, I was thinking, “Exciting … fun … in graduate school … Impossible?”
However, members of my cohort quickly reminded me of all the good times we encountered together—from the late-night sessions in the library polishing up our final papers for Dr. [Pauline] Reynolds to the countless number of group projects, devouring Christina’s mouth-watering desserts, and listening to James’s stories about his service in Afghanistan and how he overcame homelessness and recently celebrated six years of sobriety.
So, you see, life can be tricky because we tend to allow the good things and people in our lives to be overshadowed by “work” and “busyness”; we forget to seize the moments and appreciate the people who were there for us when we needed them the most. We all would not be here without great support …
Now, I would like to take a moment to reflect on a period of time, about 12 years ago, when I was in high school in piney East Texas. My high school Spanish teacher would recite what I used to believe a foolish quote every single day: “For you shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace. The mountains and the fields shall break forth into singing and all the trees in the fields shall clap their hands.”
As you can imagine, being in the 10th grade, I had no idea what the quote meant. It wasn’t until I started the master’s program at University of Redlands that I began to understand what she was trying to teach. And that is we all reach a point in life where we feel our backs are pushed up against a wall and we can’t see our way out of negative situations—not passing a test, missing class, battling anxiety and depression, our cars breaking down, not landing the job of our dreams, or, sadly, even losing a loved one.
Essentially, the point of my speech is to encourage you all to not allow “life” outside of this Greek Theatre to prevent us from being the educators we are destined to be.
The world is counting on us. Parents are counting on us. And, most importantly, students are counting on us. Will you be the one? The teacher, the mental health counselor, the administrator, the student affairs professional, the school or college counselor.
A famous poet and lyrist, Belcalis Almanzar, better known as Cardi B, once said, “Knock me down nine times, but I get up 10.” Take an active role in your self-authorship. How do you want your story to be told when you leave University of Redlands? … I encourage you to share your success stories with your students, particularly how you were able to walk across the stage on this very day.
University of Redland’s School of Education faculty and staff members have set us up to take on all our career endeavors, to fight for social justice and equity for all. We all have made it here today, my fellow Bulldogs, for a divine purpose, and it is only the beginning. Do not let anything or anyone hinder you from achieving your goals. Whatever your path, I pray you are able to find peace and joy. Please repeat after me:
“For you shall go with joy
And be led forth with peace
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing
And all the trees
In the fields
Shall clap their hands.”