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Virtual Commencement 2020

Valedictorian Speech 2015: Marisa Gargaro

Valedictorian Speech May 17, 2015

Welcome President Christian, faculty, staff, family, friends and my fellow graduates. I am honored and overwhelmed with emotions to stand before you as the Class of 2015 Valedictorian…It is truly an honor to speak to all of you on such a momentous day of celebration. If someone had told me at the start of my college experience that I would be the 2015 valedictorian, I would not have believed them. Not only had the idea of being the valedictorian seem unrealistic, but I planned to walk at graduation in 2016, four years after my high school graduation. But somehow, credits and grades added up, and here I am before you all, a year early.

When I tell people I’m graduating early, they usually respond with “College is the best years of your life, why would you want to cut it short?” I’ve had multiple people tell me I’m making the worst mistake of my life…but I know, deep down, that this is the right choice for me and my bank account. Still, there are times when I can’t help but wish for another year here. Some of you have been here for four or five years and still wish for one more. And why shouldn’t you? Look around you, around this campus. It is beautiful. The ponds, the quads, the view of the mountains…we have discovered in our years here that no amount of construction can diminish the views from our campus. Though we definitely have been tested on that. We are also located near an equally beautiful and bustling town. A town that has been our saving grace for late night pizza cravings, $1.75 Bistro breakfasts and fishbowls to celebrate our 21st .

Even more special than New Paltz itself are the people in it. The people who have made each of our experiences unique, memorable and worthwhile. Professors, adjuncts, coaches, advisors, administrators…allow me to take a moment to thank you from the Class of 2015. For educating us, for inspiring us, for guiding us to this commencement today. You all have contributed in shaping us for the future.

No value can be placed on the friendships found here at New Paltz. We are accepting students with diverse skills, passions, and perspectives, and we all ended up together on one campus. I hope you all have found someone here that makes this commencement day so bittersweet. I hope there is at least one student, faculty member, team, or group that has touched your heart so incredibly that it makes your departure from New Paltz even more of a challenge. I hope you are thinking about that individual or group right now…Cherish them and the lessons you have learned from them, because they are the ones who have defined your New Paltz experience. The group of individuals that I dread to leave is my Ultimate Frisbee team. Through the friendships of my teammates and the opportunity to be their captain, I have discovered new passions and leadership skills within myself that I otherwise would not have realized. I am thankful for my family of a team…and I owe my thanks to New Paltz for leading me to them.

So they say that college is the best years of our lives. Although I see some truth in it now, three years ago, I felt a lot of pressure. To come to this completely new place and be expected to have this unforgettable experience! That’s scary…but what is even scarier is that our supposed best years are now over. If college is the climax of our lives…then it’s all downhill from here, right? Well, I have some advice for you, Class of 2015. Don’t let this commencement mark the end of your best years. Am I going to accept that where I stand right now marks the peak of my existence? Absolutely not! And I expect the same from all of you. You are all talented, creative, inventive, skilled, and vocal individuals. You are all fortunate for the opportunities in which you have relished during your time here.  Don’t let your years at New Paltz be the best of your lives…instead, let them be the start to the best years of your lives.

Wherever we go from here, I know…that with the experiences and education obtained from SUNY New Paltz…we all have the otential to make the best years of our lives continue, even as we enter into the real world.

Congratulations to the State University of New York at New Paltz Class of 2015, and may your endeavors lead you to continued years of happiness and success!