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Class of 2020 valedictorian reminds graduates of compassion and empathy

In the face of the national government’s incompetence in addressing the issues of the country, the UPLB Graduating Class of 2020 valedictorian reminded future leaders, the graduates, to practice compassion and empathy with the Filipino people.

In her speech on August 15 virtual graduation of UPLB, Shantel Anne Nicole E. Chavez pointed out one of the graduates, who carries honor and excellence, could be the next leader of the country. However, Chavez shared that serving the people would require a “radical change in 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,” she said.

Chavez hoped that her fellow graduates would tie their personal dream of improving the welfare of the marginalized sectors and the bettering the lives of Filipinos.

“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,” she continued.

Meanwhile, Chavez urged the graduates to share their stories to spark hope for and open the eyes of the Filipino people. She said that everyone should continue calling for sustainable change in the educational system especially that the new normal of remote learning deprived students to access quality education.

“Let us amplify these stories (of the oppressed) to serve as a wake-up call to those officials sitting inside their air conditioned government offices that quality education remained a privilege for some instead of being a right for everyone,” she pointed out.

Hope for students

As a delayed student herself, Chavez encouraged students who are losing hope in their studies to keep moving forward.

Chavez, a magna cum laude was supposed to finish her BS Agricultural Economics degree with her batchmates from 2015 last year. Despite the delays and setbacks, Chavez said that there is always another chance to find the way back to everyone’s goals.

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

Meanwhile, some graduating students shared that the current pandemic hindered them to join the Class of 2020 as some were not able to finish their thesis and other requirements. With this, Chavez called out the people to stop being judgmental and invalidating the efforts of the students to finish their studies.

“Let us constantly be reminded that we are not actually aware of what they have to go through just to attend every class and to submit every class requirement,” she emphasized.

Hon. Francis C. Laurel of the UP Board of Regents and guest speaker echoed Chavez’s sentiment of practicing honor and excellence wherever they are. Laurel said that the real world would constantly test the graduates like they are taking their final exams every day.

“When things go bad, take a step back. Go to a happy place, recreate yourself, refocus, and then move on. Every now and then, you need to recharge,” he stated.

For just almost one and a half hours, 1,630 graduates received their degrees during the virtual commencement exercise of the Class of 2020 last August 15.

According to the official website of UPLB, 26 graduates received the Certificate in Forestry; 1,275, their bachelor’s degree; 250, their master’s degree; and 79, their doctorate, with nine magna cum laude and 72 cum laude graduate from different colleges.

Weeks before the virtual graduation, the graduating students signed a petition calling for an on-ground commencement exercise once the pandemic subsides and the health situation allows the safe conduct of mass gatherings.

However, Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez said in a letter addressed to Vice-Chairperson Jainno C. Bongon that his office is in no position to commit due to the uncertainties of the pandemic. [P]

Photo from UPLB official website

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