Tough Enough to Make a Difference
May 20, 2014
It's May and commencement time! Last weekend, Wheelock College and hundreds of other institutions across the country celebrated the proud tradition of college graduation, a joyous time for students, their families, friends, and of course faculty and the entire college community. Hundreds of thousands of people listened to a commencement address that in some way encouraged the graduates to contribute to society. At Wheelock, Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for Health for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, delivered a meaningful and passionate address. He advised our graduates to live by three guiding themes as they make their way in life: Stand for something bigger than yourself, connect with someone every day, and practice an "attitude of gratitude." All excellent words of advice.
Graduation and the many festivities leading up to commencement remind us that college is not simply, nor should it be, a course of study leading to employment. Our greatest aspiration for our students is that they leave college transformed -- a more confident, competent, compassionate and passionate lifelong learner who is able to learn and grow through the ups and downs of their professional and personal journeys.
For the students who graduate committed to service -- meaning they have chosen helping others as their life's work, college is a wonderful opportunity to explore the many professional ways to serve. It also provides students with the time to better understand themselves -- why they are personally committed to service and what drives them to work in challenging complicated environments that, in most cases, will not offer high remuneration. These students will find themselves in classrooms, working in hospitals and health settings -- they will be community organizers and youth advocates. They will sometimes work in high-risk, low-paying jobs. Many will leave college to travel across the world to join Peace Corps or some other world service organization. These students are passionate idealists ready to change the world for the better. We applaud, celebrate and encourage them to go forth with courage, and perseverance as the world desperately needs them!
A hallmark of a Wheelock education is our deep commitment to providing students with the rigorous academic preparation along with "real world" experiences necessary to develop and nurture their special call to service. Students leave Wheelock with numerous "real world" experiences that are valuable in shaping their life journey such as rebuilding homes in New Orleans, teaching a child to read, working with children undergoing medical treatment, or learning about the peacekeeping process in Northern Ireland. We do this work in collaboration with over 280 community partnerships in Boston-area schools, social service agencies, and hospitals and across the world. One example of this commitment is our partnership with City Year. City Year unites young people of all backgrounds to serve as tutors, mentors, and role models for children in grades three through nine. Every time I encounter a City Year graduate, I am inspired by their idealism, commitment, leadership and the high level of maturity these students bring to our campus. Through our City Year partnership, Wheelock offers "Give a Year" scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students who have served in City Year and who want to prepare for a professional career in service. We are honored to offer these students an environment of like-minded people for whom service to humankind is their life's' calling.
Our Wheelock College founder, Lucy Wheelock, in reflecting on the issue of social justice wrote, "the one thing that makes life worth living is to serve a cause." We know that serving a cause will not be easy -- it hard and challenging work. It's tough! At Wheelock, we ask our students the question: Are you tough enough to inspire a World of Good? With this simple expression, we are telling the world that it takes a special kind of person to do the admirable yet often challenging work in which Wheelock alumni and students engage. It takes strong character, a willingness to take on the challenges that others may consider not as meaningful or too difficult, and a great fortitude.
Last week hundreds of Wheelock graduates, along with thousands of others throughout this country, answered the question, Are you tough enough to inspire a world of good with a resounding YES!! I am grateful to these graduates who will commence into the next phase of their life journey dedicated to making this a better world. They will take on the professional roles: within classrooms, in schools, in community based organizations, business, and government to make sure the world responds effectively to children and family needs, keeping their critical issues at the forefront. In doing so, they will live Lucy Wheelock's life lesson and improve the lives of children and families throughout the world.