CCRI grads told to never forget they are resilient, think of education when they yawn


The Community College of Rhode Island Class of 2017 were reminded Friday that earning a diploma isn’t easy. They were also told to think of their education when they yawn, remember they are resilient and to take risks.

Jazmin Delacruz, the 2017 student commencement speaker, said, “Let us celebrate not just the victory of graduating, but also acknowledge the many battles we fought and won to sit here today. These battles tested our grit, our determination, our perseverance, and our commitment to achieving our goal of a degree in higher education.”

Overcoming the odds is a theme often voiced at CCRI graduations as speakers acknowledge that many CCRI students are the first in their families to attend college, work jobs in addition to attending classes and even raise families at the same time. Stories of the challenges students face are often recounted at graduation, and this year was no exception.

To the list of challenges Governor Gina Raimondo added the commute to the college, which can take an hour by bus from Pawtucket. She said, “I’m going to fix that.”

“Rhode Island needs you,” she said, looking out at the packed Vincent A. Cullen Field House at the Knight Campus in Warwick.

She asked how many of the graduates planned to be nurses. A resounding cheer went up from the nursing grads. Then she asked about social workers. There was another cheer, but not quite as loud. The same held true when she asked how many planned to be teachers.


There was silence.

“Oh, come on” she said to a roll of laughter.

Raimondo said the graduates had demonstrated grit and passion to get to where they are.

Barbara Cottam, chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education, urged the graduates not to forget “you are strong and resilient.”

William Foulkes, chair of the RI Board of Education Council on Postsecondary Education, had similar advice, only he told the graduates to remember their education every time “you yawn.” He had people listening and few, if any, yawning. He said studies about yawns have come up with numerous explanations and conclusions that it is a form of rebooting and resetting, although more frequently associated with being tired or bored. He also noted that yawns are contagious with his point being for the grads to “stay contagious, reboot and stay awake.”

It was a stretch, but Foulkes had everyone’s attention.

From yawns, the graduates heard college president Meghan Hughes, the first female president in the college’s 52-year history, as Raimondo reminded the audience, urge the graduates to take risks.

“Even if we don’t see ourselves as super creative, we have insights every day about how the world around us could be better. Most of us don’t act on these ideas,” Hughes said. “We’re afraid we’re going to be rejected, or that we’re going to waste our time and no one is going to hear us. But it’s that moment, where you have to decide whether to do something, that’s where risk-taking comes in.”

Hughes said the graduates all pushed themselves to earn their college degree or certificate.

“And pushing yourself is really the very heart of taking risk – it’s doing something even when it’s hard or scary or new. As you transition to your next challenge, your new job or your new school, you know you have what it takes to be successful. The proof is sitting right behind me in that stack of 1,787 diplomas,” she said.

“As CCRI graduates, you already have inspired others to take a risk by following in your footsteps to become college students, and I want to thank you for that inspiration.”


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