by Kassidy Taylor
"When we didn’t know where to turn, when we thought that we were not at our best, UNH Manchester was there for us," graduating senior Kristin Boelzner said during her address at UNH Manchester's Honors Convocation on May 17. "It has given us a place to put down roots and make lasting friendships. It has given us somewhere to open our minds and expand our knowledge. And, most of all, it has given us a place to belong."
Boelzner, a graduating English major, addressed nearly 200 people at Tuesday's event, which celebrated the academic achievements of more than 70 students.
As a University Scholar and the recipient of the English Program Award and English Program Scholarship, Boelzner's commitment to learning is evident. But it is her contributions to campus life that have made her emblematic of the close-knit UNH Manchester community. In her four years, Boelzner has formed student clubs, mentored new students and assisted in the Marketing, Student Services and Student Development offices — applying enthusiasm and integrity to every task.
Boelzner applied the same enthusiasm to her Honors Convocation address, challenging her fellow graduates to "reach higher and push further." Read the full speech below:
I am truly honored to be here today sharing this experience with so many of my peers, distinguished faculty and staff, family and friends. I want to congratulate all of you on all of your hard work. The countless hours of studying, late nights and copious amount of stress have led you to this: the honoring of your great achievements and, two days from now, graduation.
To be honest, I was not sure how to begin my speech. I had several word documents open with half written sections, papers with outlines and various quotes scribbled down on post-its. I scrambled to find students to read my speech in order to see if I was on the right track.
I was nervous about how I was going to convey how much UNH Manchester means to us when words cannot even do it justice for my own experience. If I couldn’t even find the words for my personal journey, how could I possibly give a vision that reaches everyone?
I look at you all – my friends and peers with whom I have made this journey – and I realize now how easy it is to put this vision into words. I can see now how naturally UNH Manchester flows through us, and I can express what we have learned and what we have gained. I can see that this vision that I am trying to show does not need to be created; it already lives inside each of our experiences and stories.
UNH Manchester has been a place where we have spent most of our time – arguably, a second home. It has been part of our everyday life, and, for some of us, it has become part of our identity.
For me, I didn’t know how I was going to leave UNH Manchester. I struggled with the thought that after four long years that I would no longer be a UNH Manchester student one day, a role that I whole-heartedly adopted and was proud of.
How would I leave a part of my identity behind? How could I leave after having connected and become so deeply involved with the UNH Manchester community? How would I be able to stop being a student and move on to become someone else? An employee? A professional? Even a graduate student?
There are no easy answers to those questions. What I do know is that through the guidance we have received from UNH Manchester, we can begin to craft our identities as former students and set out on the paths each of our lives will take and reach goals that we have set for the future.
That guidance came from a professor opening their office door to us in times of stress, staff members who let us talk about our day and encouraged our growth, or fellow students who empathized with us and offered a reassuring smile showing us that we weren’t alone.
When we didn’t know where to turn, when we thought that we were not at our best, UNH Manchester was there for us. But guidance was not the only thing that UNH Manchester has given us. It has given us a place to put down roots and make lasting friendships. It has given us somewhere to open our minds and expand our knowledge. And, most of all, it has given us a place to belong.
We entered this academic institution as individuals, but, as we prepare to walk across that stage on Thursday, we leave as esteemed members of a greater community. A community that encouraged us to ask questions, become thoughtful and empathetic people, and reach further than we could have imagined.
While most graduates have hopes for their peers, I want to change it up a bit this year and offer some challenges so that you keep the flame of UNH Manchester ignited within you even as you go off into the world.
I challenge you all to stand your ground. A very near and dear mentor to me always said that sticking true to your values in the face of opposition is key. So, find what you are truly fighting for and embrace it with integrity.
I challenge you all to think deeper. Employ what the faculty has taught us to do and reach for a deeper meaning within the things we do and the things we say.
I challenge you all to reach higher and push further. As Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us lives not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” So know that you can achieve all that you set out to achieve and that success is only available when you believe in yourself.
I challenge you to become transformative in your field. Like the staff and faculty we have come to know, take the opportunities that are presented to you and transform them into something that is better so that those around us can grow, develop and succeed.
I challenge you to give as we received here at UNH Manchester. To encourage, support and embrace like others did for us when we walked through the doors on campus for the first time.
And I challenge you to explore. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails, explore, dream, discover.”
So, as we prepare to sail away from the safe harbor we know as UNH Manchester, keep with you what we have been given, strive to better the things around you, craft your identity with both your past and your future in mind, and always remember that we are Wildcats.
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