Shantel Nicole Chavez’s valedictory address

To the UPLB Class of 2020, let us congratulate ourselves for hurdling every difficulty that we encountered in our journey towards graduation.

Moreso let us not just applaud our fellow students who are graduating with latin honors but also those who did not wait for their formal graduation to assume their responsibility as members of our society.

Let us be thankful to our fellow students who are selfless and brave enough to go out on the streets and be the voice of the voiceless while still minding their academic requirements.

When we entered UPLB as freshmen students I am very sure that you were one with me in looking forward to experiencing the on-ground commencement exercises that UPLB is well-known for, to celebrate this milestone with our families who had their fair share of sacrifices just so we could wear the coveted sablay. Hence, I am one with those who are calling out the UPLB administration to give our batch the proper send-off that we deserve once it is deemed safe to do so.

However, as some of us may still be disheartened to attending this virtual graduation, I would like to remind everyone that no form of graduation ceremony could ever outweigh the value of the stories of success, struggles, lessons, and experiences that we had in UPLB. In my case, I will never be tired of sharing how I conquered the self-doubt that I endured while facing the biggest challenge that I had as an undergraduate student.

Just like you, every grade that I had was a product of days of preparation through relentlessly reviewing my notes and spending sleepless nights to finish group works, projects, and exercises. That is why I was crushed to pieces when I learned that I would not be marching with the UPLB Class of 2019 last year.

My heart sank and I lost every hope I had. For months, I could not even bring myself to continue writing my undergraduate thesis until I asked myself these questions:  Did my ability to serve the nation become less because I have to extend my stay in the university? Did my worth as a person diminish because I failed to graduate on time?

These questions made me realize that my value as a person and my ability to make a change in our nation are not inversely related to the number of years I took to finish my degree program – five long years of perseverance, diligence, and yes moments of doubt but finally here I am with my sablay

This is not to encourage academic delinquency but to remind people that sometimes things could still get out of hand even if you exerted so much effort to avoid such unfortunate circumstances.

Let us be mindful that there is always another chance to find the way back to our goals and that is if we just keep on reminding ourselves that we have a definite purpose to fulfill, despite the delays and the setbacks.

I also hope that people will stop being judgmental to delayed students and invalidating their efforts.  Let us be constantly reminded that we are not actually aware of what they had to go through just to attend every class or to submit every class requirement.

And to you, my fellow graduates, let us remember that each of us has a story to tell and worth sharing because it is not just our academic feats that made our stories and college life valuable but, rather, the lessons that went with them.

I therefore, encourage everyone to let your stories be heard. Let your stories spark hope in our nation especially during these trying times. Let your stories inspire other UP students who are still fighting for their eventual graduation. Let your stories help in building a dream of a 10-year old elementary student in your community. Let your stories encourage incoming and current college students to broaden the purpose of their professional dreams – from just earning a decent income for their families to also serving our nation.

Aside from inspiring people, I believe that our stories are also meant to open eyes.

I am well aware that with us are graduates who struggled financially while finishing their degree programs because of the multitude of academic requirements that they need to spend their tight allowances on.

Some of us may also have friends, former classmates, or relatives who opted to stop attending college because of the lack of financial resources. Let us then amplify these stories to serve as a wake-up call to those officials sitting inside their air-conditioned government offices that quality education remains a privilege for some instead of being a right for everyone.

Some of us may also belong to a community where out-of-school children and out-of-school youths are common. Let us echo the stories of these people to call for an inclusive education system.

Now that the new normal for students requires a reliable internet connection and electronic devices, it is expected that more students will be deprived access to quality education.

Parati nating naririnig na kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan pero paano ito mangyayari kung hahayaan nating manatili ang sistemang patuloy na pumapatay sa pag-asa nilang makapag-aral?

Aside from raising funds for these students, let us continue to call for a sustainable change in the education system in our country. Let us strive for a new normal in which no students are left behind because our country is investing more on ensuring equal access to quality education.

Right now, we are all enraged with the incompetence of the government in addressing the pressing issues that our country has been facing. This should make us more eager to fulfill our duty as “Iskolar ng Bayan para sa Bayan” while remembering the reasons why we desire to make a positive impact in the nation.

I hope that the values that the university instilled in our hearts will always be our armor against corruption and will be our guide to always side with what is just and right. One of us can be the next leader of this country but still fail to serve the people because of the lack of compassion and the wrong inclination of the heart.

I believe that it takes a radical change in our hearts to continually serve the people without losing hope and it starts by being compassionate and empathetic of the situation of our fellow Filipinos especially the underprivileged and the oppressed.

From this should stem our personal decision to translate our compassion and empathy into actions that would really lead to the solutions that we desire for our country. With this, I hope that every personal dream that we will make as we go out of the university will be tied to our aspiration of improving the welfare of those in the marginalized sector and of the betterment of the Filipino nation in general.

Nawa ay laging maging nasa Diyos at bayan ang ating katapatan! Padayon, mga Iskolar ng Bayan para sa Bayan!

Shantel Nicole Chavez
UPLB Valedictorian
Class of 2020

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