Graduation Speeches

President Klonoski

Graduates let me begin by congratulating all of you on your tremendous achievement. Many of our undergraduates have arrived at this moment along a non-traditional path, often after several false starts, and over far more than the usual number of years. Many of our graduate students spent years working before deciding to pursue that next degree. And many of you were often stopped in your progress by family responsibilities. You put those family responsibilities ahead of your own needs, and that meant your education was delayed. I understand the barriers you faced and know how much it means to you that you are finally able to earn your degree.

This year’s graduation may be clouded by the COVID-19 outbreak, but it should not take away from what you have accomplished. If anything, it shows the depth of your character and how resilient you are. This outbreak has shown that you are not quitters. You managed to face these challenges and yet continued to push forward, navigating the uncharted times. In fact, I would argue that your ability to keep moving forward during this crisis should be the number one accomplishment on your new resumes. Great job, class of 2020. I am honored and proud to be celebrating with you.

As you sit here enjoying this well-earned celebration of your accomplishments, it is the perfect moment to think about what your degree completion efforts say about you. First, you all had the courage to try again. You put aside the things that blocked your original efforts to finish a degree, you put yourself out there again, and you tackled the challenge of a college credential. To me, taking the risk to start again is far more interesting than the reasons why you didn’t finish the first time. I am intrigued by the grit it takes to try again.

I point this out because I believe that this grit, your capacity to keep reaching for that next success, is the one characteristic that you must keep deploying. It is your defining trait, your cloak of invincibility. You are a group of people who show up, say yes, I can, get back up after you are knocked down, and who keep moving forward. If you do this at work, in your personal relationships, in graduate school and in every aspect of your lives, it guarantees that you will make the most of the opportunities that lay ahead of you. Putting yourself out there is always the first step toward success.

Each of us builds a life by putting ourselves out there. We make a promise, or we announce a goal, and then we do the work to make it happen. We learn to be self-reliant and we learn to accept help. And once we make it, it is one of life’s great joys to help those following us.

In closing, I applaud your courage, your persistence, and the generosity that will surely follow as you share your time, talent, and knowledge with those around you, and our Charter Oak Community!


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Tenell Rhodes Graduation Speech

I would like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, my Bishop Jasper Rolle, Jr., my eldest son, T.J., who prayed a bold prayer in 2017 that led me here, and my darling mother who never settled and taught me to shoot for the stars and if I land on the moon, I’m still on higher ground, and to whom I dedicate this Bachelor’s degree.

I promised my mother in 1990 that I would earn a bachelor's degree and one-upped her request of me to say I’ll even earn a master’s degree. Well, 30 years later, better late than never. For some of us it may feel like better late than never. Yet, we're right on time for such a time as this.

I also thank my ever-supportive, gorgeous wife, Natalie, and her sweetheart mother, Marion, who both, like Energizer Bunnies, have tremendously helped keep the family running like clockwork and allowed me to focus on my studies and ministry during this educational journey.

And I even thank our wonderful and beautiful children that believe in me, help and inspire me, and see me as their Superman! My late grandmother began calling me this, then my father and eldest son kept it going. But, I didn’t always feel like Superman.

Having overcome a hurtful divorce, the glass ceiling, wrongful termination from a successful executive career of more than 20 years, being suddenly unemployed to now being underemployed for two years, PTSD from the entire awful experience, and applying to more than 180 jobs with only one job offer … here I am … part of the class of 2020! THE OVERCOMERS!

However, this is my story. Your story may have different details, but all of our stories have something in common: unexpected obstacles and many challenges that we’ve overcome. WE’RE EVEN OVERCOMING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC!

You may have had health, wealth, physical or mental challenges, family, or relationship issues, etc. We each have different backgrounds, foregrounds, trials, and tribulations that make us different. What we all have in common is struggle. Struggle is universal.

The late Dr. Robert Schuller wrote: “Tough times never last, but tough people do!” Our accomplishments required many late nights, early mornings, and even busy lunch times. We had to get it in wherever we could fit it in.


Keep going! Whether pursuing a graduate certificate, a master's degree like me, here at Charter Oak State College, or other non-traditional learning, keep adding fuel to the fire. Because we're still here means that we still have more to live, more to give, more to share, more to earn, and more to learn. We must be students of life and students for life.

Go out not to make a dollar but to make a difference! Pursue your passion and the pennies or the paper will follow.

To close, I want to remind you all that it was prayer that led me here and with much prayer, there’s much power. No prayer, no power. Prayer changes everything!

Like the U.S. Marines say about their swords, they’re earned, never given. So, our degrees were not given, they were earned! Awesome work everyone! God bless the class of 2020 and congratulations to us all!

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Wendy Garcia Graduation Speech

Good afternoon class of 2020 it is my honor to be here today celebrating this great achievement with you all.

I just want to take a moment and brag about your accomplishments, this moment should not be taken lightly, you all should be very proud. You hard work has paid off, and now you are ready for your next journey, whether it is grad school, a new job or a promotion!

While I understand that we are forced to celebrate this occasion in a very different manner today due to the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t let that take away from your amazing accomplishment. Even through this very difficult time, you all managed to complete your courses, stay on track, and graduate. That is awesome and you all should be commended. Go out and celebrate!

Whether this is your first shot at college and you completed in four years or you came back to finish what you didn’t complete earlier in life, I am so very proud of you! I was one of those students that went to college right out of high school for about 7 years and never graduated, so I went back when I was about 44 years old to finish what I started until life happened!! I never gave up on my dreams to finish college!

I challenge every one of you to NEVER give up and always pursue your dreams! Brag about your accomplishment of completing your degree; it takes hard work, dedication and commitment, and you should be proud! But stay humble!

Cheers to the Class of 2020!!!

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