Woah. The last time I spoke in front of a large audience I was in sixth grade. I stood at the podium and laughed until I was asked to leave. Let's hope this goes a little better.

To begin, I want to thank our families, friends, professors, and colleagues. I can say with complete confidence that without you we would not have been able to reach this milestone. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I would also like to thank those who cannot be with us today, including those who have passed on. We love you and we miss you so, so much.

Class of 2023 and fall 2022, wow! We did it. Can you believe it? I hope you are as proud of yourself as your professors, friends, and family are of you. Whether you were in the data analytics, marketing, or inclusive education program, graduate school was far from a breeze, but we persevered. You, specifically, overcame challenges unique to your situations and I'm sure we shared some challenges too, like trying to navigate how to prioritize yourself while working full time and going to school. I know that what I say will not fully capture your individual experience, but I hope that by sharing mine, I might be able to help you with the challenges you may face in the future.

During my experience at Stonehill College graduate education program, I learned so much more than just how to educate students with disabilities. It was filled with moments of self-discovery, too. For example, I learned that I had a deep seeded fear of failure. This fear was so crippling that I almost didn't graduate because I kept postponing my licensing exams out of fear of failing. My avoiding those exams was so noticeable that my professor Dr. Stringer Keefe pulled me aside and said, "Amanda, you're the only thing that is standing in your way." She was right. Her words made me reflect on why I entered the program in the first place; educating has always been my dream.

So, I signed up for the first exam. And guess what? I failed. However, I learned to be kind to myself. The same way I am to my students. When my students "fail" I tell them that this doesn't define them, and that failure is an inevitable part of moving through life and that learning to pick yourself up in the wake of failure is a necessary skill to have. And if I expect my students to do that, shouldn't I also live by this?

Overall, I teach my students to hold this growth mindset and they have motivated me to do the same.

I challenge you to seek out opportunities where you may fail and be forced to embrace failure as I have. These opportunities will help you to grow.

I encourage you to take risks and use the tools Stonehill has given you to change the world.

This world truly needs us, and I am so excited for our future as new leaders in data analytics, marketing, and education.

Now, as I close, please turn to someone near you and share a smile and congratulations. You did it! Much love, and God bless you all!