May 24, 2024
Student in cap and gown

Commencement 2024

What does it mean to be a first-generation graduate?

As a first-generation college student, I recognize the value of effort and commitment. Being the first in my family to complete college is not only rewarding but an even greater challenge.

In particular, my mother has consistently urged me to seize this opportunity to build a brighter future for myself, and doing so means the world. Essentially, it’s worth honoring and setting an example for the coming generations.

“My hard work has paid off in raising you, I instilled good values in you, one being to work hard and reach for your goals, the other to remain yourself and not let anyone stand in the way of your success,” my mother said, grateful for what I accomplished, despite her not taking the same route.

Psychological struggles, the difficulty of not knowing how to use the resources available, such as counseling, internships, and work-study opportunities, compared to peers who have guidance from family members who have attended college. The academic challenge of navigating the educational system when in need of mentors who can support students and guide them through the administrative process. Also, the shift all students face from high school to college requires independence in many areas. The freedom we as college students hold when dictating what we do with our experience is a huge jump off the porch.

“Graduating college is a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m the first one in my family to go and graduate from college. Graduating with a degree in fashion was something I always dreamed of, so I’m proud of myself and I accomplished something I’ve always wanted,” Amya Murrell answered when asked what graduating meant to her.

“I’ve always dreamt of being a fashion designer since a little girl and owning my own store.” Murrell’s field of study is Fashion Buying and Merchandising, has great admiration for the subject, and is finally reaching her first goal of receiving her degree. What has been the biggest challenge getting here for Murrell? How has her thinking shifted from freshman year to now?

“My biggest challenge of getting to where I’m at now, graduating from Herkimer was keeping up with assignments while working at the same time. I did it though, I really challenged my character and accomplished a lot.” Gathering knowledge within the past two years, Murrells thinking has made a huge change since arriving as a freshman, “I gained so much experience in my field and it made me realize the steps I have to take to get to where I want to be. It helped me network with and get motivated by new people.”

Families join together to celebrate the completion of an educational journey during graduation season. It signifies who has made the step towards the next stage in their life.

 On Friday, May 10, 2024, Herkimer College will gather for its 56th annual commencement ceremony, taking place in the physical education building at 4:00 pm. Caps, gowns, flowers, photography, student speakers, honors stoles, t-shirts, and diplomas are all key elements in the preparation of the event. Approximately 325 students are listed as graduates or probable graduates; those who do wish to walk the stage have received all graduation regalia.

Director of Student Activities Vicki Brown has taken pride in bringing together this ceremony alongside Director of Public Relations Rebecca Ruffing. This year is the 18th commencement they’ve collaborated on. Both do their share in making sure the ceremony is taken care of, in October the two starts at the basics, securing the date, contacting rental companies, performers, and other vital details, getting busier by the day as the date gets closer.

Time after time of planning the ceremony, preparation is the key to Brown’s planning. “We’ve been doing this for so long that we have just a really nice checklist and a timeline so every month we break down, I say we because I chair with the director of public relations. So, we have a checklist of all the things that we need to get done every month. We work together to make sure that it’s all taken care of, so that’s probably how it’s successful.”

When arranging the logistics of any ceremony, there are many details to incorporate. Not only is graduating a major to-do for students, but the planning of it is also just as important. Planning is a daily responsibility for Brown, and challenges do come with her job, “There’s so many moving parts. There’s lots of things that are going on and trying to… just again, making sure it all happens. Right? So, it’s not hard but it’s just challenging because you have to make sure you remember it all.” A big task at hand when planning the graduation ceremony but is instinctive to Brown after years of work saying,

“It’s part of my job, right. It’s just kind of a natural progression because we’ve been doing it so long and it’s a part of my everyday work.”

After being asked what sets Herkimer Commencement ceremony apart from others, Brown is adamant about the incorporation of the students. The Student Government President, student trustee, and a selected student all are involved in speaking at the ceremony. “It’s something we’ve been doing for a long time, it is tradition, but I think it’s nice to mention because I don’t know how other colleges do things, I’m not familiar with their plans, but I think it’s nice to have a student speaker there.”

Honoring all who reached the milestone of graduating from Herkimer college, commencement is showcasing students’ achievements, and how far they have come. A first-generation student, with all bets against them, is applauded for the accomplishment of beating the odds, rising to the occasion, and wearing their white honor cord.  The trials and tribulations of the class of 2024 are commended, and students will be congratulated Friday, May 10th.  

Alicia Espinosa

Alicia Espinosa is a sophomore student in the General Studies major, looking to explore the communications and media field, hopeful to eventually start her podcast. A goal for Espinosa is to build her profile and knowledge on media.

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