A Promise Kept

Over the years I have heard many speeches in my Effective Speaking classes, some leaving an indelible impression. In 2014, a graduating student gave her final “celebratory speech”. This particular student had previously recounted how she had been bullied in elementary, middle, and high school. The bullies knew that her disability made her “different”. They were brutal antagonists.

She fought back, but it was never easy. Each day was a struggle. Her grandfather was her hero who helped her to believe in herself and urged her to ignore the bullies. He always supported her goal to have a college degree and decided he was going to pay for her college education. Unfortunately, he died before he could set up the funds to help her, but on his death bed she promised she would get her college degree.

This passage from her speech is not verbatim but is accurate in its context:

This month I will graduate from Northwestern College. It hasn’t always been easy. My struggles have been physical and mental. Many of you in this room have also had struggles, but no matter how hard it has been to get to this day…it has been worth it.

Many people helped me along the way. There have been teachers and peers who have picked me up on bad days and kept me focused. I will always love each of you. But the reason I am here today is because I made a promise to my grandfather that I would get a college degree. I promised him that I would be the first in my family to have a college degree.

When my grandfather died, I cried for hours and hours. I thought our dream died with him. My soul hurt. For a long time I felt lost. My promise to graduate was made as he lay dying. I knew I had to keep my promise.

I studied, I did my work, I attended my classes and when I was ill…I contacted my teachers. I made it my goal to be a good student. I was motivated. Today, I can say…”Grandpa, I kept my promise!” (She then broke down in tears). There was not a dry eye in the house. I cried along with everyone. I stood up and hugged her and whispered in her ear “Yes, you did keep your promise and he knows it.”

Today she is a student at a four year university.

Many students face difficult times in their journey toward a college education. We provide support for students through our learning community: Administration, Counseling Services, Advisers, Student Services, Career Services, Financial Aid, General Staff and all of our Faculty. All of us are committed to each student. Our goal is to nurture and support each person to achieve their goals.

As one teacher, I am humbled by the many stories students share in class. I learn lessons, in life, from each of my students. Keeping promises matter.