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Student Perspective Speaker

Elizabeth Fuentes

In 2016 when I stepped onto this campus for the first time, my mom helped me settle into my dorm. As we said our goodbyes, she says to me “we can overcome this. We will overcome this” I remember watching my mom leave with tears threatening to leave my eyes, but her words stood with me. This was the first time I’d leave comfort of her embrace, but I had to. I had to carve my own path and that path led me to this campus. I had to overcome the challenges of college and all the experiences attached to it. Me, the child of a single imigrante parent. Me, the girl who learned English as her second language. Despite the challenges, four years later I stand here about to receive my Bachelor of Arts English Degree with a minor in Political Science Pre-legal Studies. To say this wasn't the way I imagined my senior year to end is an understatement. I imagined crossing the stage and looking out into the crowd somehow being able to spot my mother to wave at her with my diploma in hand but unfortunately that's not the case.

This pandemic has limited all of us graduates. We’ve received recognition for our hard work via email, which is not what any of use expected, yet I encourage all of us to not let our current situation deter our happiness. This is a huge moment for us all. Through all the sleepless nights and stressful moments, we earned this moment. The moment to be addressed as the graduating class of 2020. And to that I want to assure you that regardless of everything happening, everyone is proud of you and your hard work is being acknowledged. With or without the ceremony this diploma is yours. It is to be shown proudly and loudly. You deserve to show off your efforts to not only prove your potential to others but to also pave the way for others who need guidance. I, much like you, will miss our ceremony but being able to show my mother my diploma will be a moment I will cherish no matter the circumstance.

My mother has a wall in her home dedicated to her children's accomplishments and every time I visit her; she shows me where my college diploma will go. I always tell her this diploma is not solely mine. The diploma will have my name inscribed on it, but it will also have the spirit of my family embedded in it. This diploma is for my mother, who fought for us when we couldn’t. This diploma is for my siblings, who made life full of adventure. This diploma is for my best friend who silenced my self-doubt. This diploma is for all of us fighting to make our mark in this world despite the trials and tribulations. This diploma is for the community we built on this campus. This diploma is for the generation to come, who will use our experiences as encouragement.

Throughout my four years at Cal State LA the amount of support I received from the student body is what made this experience that much more memorable. During my gap periods or after class I would spend my time at the Student Union. The hustle and bustle of the U-SU kept me on my toes and allowed me to cultivate connections with those around me. During my first year I recall being hesitant to ask if a seat was taken but now as I close out my fourth year I enjoy forming a new connection with those around me even if it is to just share a table. Joining an organization like Hermanas Unidas de Cal State LA connected me with people I could relate to past an academic standpoint. This organization and those involved became my support system when I struggled on my journey to my diploma.

The diploma that we struggled so much for is more than a piece of paper. This diploma is the physical manifestation of our journey. This includes all our ups, downs, self-doubt, but mostly importantly our successes. And although we will not be able to walk the stage in May, I encourage you to find other ways to celebrate your accomplishments, because you deserve it. This diploma proves to all those who doubted us that we are greater than any of our failures but instead a product of our hard work. This is to show we are more than a statistic; we are luchadores. So, congrats class of 2020 lo logramos. Y gracias a nuestras familias. Si se pudo.