WWU Spring Commencement 2014 – Student Speakers 4 pm

SPEAKER: Ms. Andrea Ivana
d’Aquino and Ms. Anne Elizabeth d’Aquino are your
class speakers. The provost election committee
chose Andrea and Anne for this honor from a group
of outstanding candidates nominated by our
academic programs. On this last April 1,
midnight, Andrea and Anne were staring in disbelief
at their computer screens, wondering if they were the
victims of some practical ole April Fools’ Day joke. But the life-changing
announcement was real. Both of them were recipients of
a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship,
which will provide them both with significant
funding towards obtaining their doctoral degrees. The d’Aquino sisters came to
Western Washington University not sure of what they
wanted to major in, or were thinking actually about
becoming police officers. A general university
requirement introduced them to the world of chemistry,
and it became their passion. Both excelled at
research, working closely with mentors such
as Professor Mark Bussell, Associate Professor
Clint Spiegel, and others. They presented at regional
and national conferences and won many awards. Both Anne and Andrea had been
active outside the classroom as well. The sisters are respectively
President and Vice President of the Western
Chapter of the Society for the Advancement of
Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. They also volunteer with the
Food Sense Nutrition Education program and the Compass to
Campus Mentoring program. And together they did a
research project on Agent Orange in Vietnam, which resulted
in their first coauthored publication. The daughters of Joao and
Katherine d’Aquino, Andrea and Anne were born in San
Diego and raised in Bellingham where they graduated from
Squalicum High School. After graduation,
they planned to attend Northwestern
University in Evanston to pursue doctorates
in chemistry. Please welcome your
class speakers, Andrea and Anne d’Aquino. [APPLAUSE] ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
Parents and family members who were lucky enough to be
selected as the elite four and receive the
coveted graduation ticket to this warm
uncrowded ceremony, welcome and thank you. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
To the faculty and staff who have joined us to celebrate
the incredible achievements of the graduates and have been
mentors and advisers to so many of us, thank you. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: And finally, to the graduating class of 2014,
the linguists, the scientists, the journalists, the writers,
and the philosophers, we made it. For some of us, it took
five years, maybe even six instead of four, but
we made it nonetheless. We survived the long nights
of studying in Wilson Library, and the even longer
nights wishing we had not procrastinated
on studying while drinking double shot
espressos and venti lattes. We overcame challenges
and obstacles, which just four or five years
ago we may have never dreamed of encountering. Congratulations. [APPLAUSE] That’s not the end. I’m Anne. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
And I’m Andrea. And it’s an incredible honor
to stand before you today as your student
commencement speakers. However, we know all
of you are anxiously awaiting your own chance
to step onto the stage and so we’ll make
this address brief and present to you just
two important lessons which we have learned over the past
five years here at Western. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: Today, we hope to emphasize the
fundamental role of desire behind every achievement. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
And additionally stress the necessity of
embracing and promoting diversity in order to
improve our communities and advance our fields of study. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
Every single one of us has faced challenges and
obstacles during our time here at Western, whether it was
being away from our families’ home cooked meals, sprinting
to catch the bus only to hear the doors close
and then watch it pull away from the curb, or even
trekking across campus in the pouring rain wearing
a skirt and sandals, when just hours before it was sunny. We’ve all overcome a challenge. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
We stand here telling you this
because we are certainly no stranger or exception
to these obstacles. As first generation
college students, Anne and I have experienced both
overt and unseen challenges. These challenges have helped
shape who we have become today, just as many of
you have discovered in your own obstacles. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: Andrea and I are the youngest of
a family of seven. Our parents immigrated to the
United States from Hong Kong and worked relentlessly
to support our family. They both recognize
the value of education and strongly encouraged us to do
something and achieve something they did not have the
opportunity to earn, a university education. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
Because our parents could not help us navigate the
idiosyncrasies of college, neither Anne nor I knew how to
or when to apply for college and we did not understand
what the SAT was or how important it
was for our futures. Needless to say, college
and all of its nuances was an entirely
foreign language to us. The only thing we knew with
certainty about college was that it was
going to be difficult and it was going to
be very expensive. But we knew that it was
something we wanted to do and needed to do. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: With that, we each worked several jobs
prior to attending college. We tossed salads
in a restaurant. We dishwashed. We cleaned the restaurant. We mowed lawns. We babysat. We even picked up soggy
diapers and rotten milk along the interstate 5. That was not a delinquent job. We worked relentlessly to pay
our own was through college and never lost sight
of our ultimate goal. I vaguely remember a whirlwind
of application questions, essays, scholarship
applications. I don’t know exactly
how we did it, but somehow,
someway we completed Western’s application. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
And since being accepted, Anne and I have made it our
goal to not simply graduate but to make a difference
here at Western. We might have had no idea what
college was or entailed when we first began, but we worked
hard to integrate ourselves into this community. And we have since then– ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO: Tutored
students in math and science. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: Played
for Western’s Club Tennis team. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO: Enjoyed
world-renowned fun Vietnam. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
Aided in health and environmental chemistry
and biochemistry research. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
Traveled to the universities across the country to
conduct research and summer internships on public health,
medicine, and biochemistry. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: We have
co-founded the DWWU Chapter for the National Society for
the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
We’ve educated our campus on alcohol and drug use through
the Peer Health Educators program. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: And
we’ve organized and executed numerous events and discussion
panels here on campus. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
We also worked with adults with Parkinson’s
disease and dementia. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: And we’ve
become masters at freeze tag when we spent a summer
teaching middle school students through the Teach
Washington Noise Summer Internship. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: We aren’t sharing these experiences with
you out of vanity or pride, rather we are
sharing this with you to illustrate that
as college graduates, or more importantly
as Western graduates, we are capable of anything. With a vision, a goal,
and most of all, a desire, we can accomplish things we
never would have dreamed of. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
Every quarter as part-time jobs to
pay tuition, Anne and I worked these
commencement ceremonies. And every quarter, I stood
in the back of this gym and I watched hundreds of
students cross the stage. And every quarter, I yearned
to be one of those students. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
We told ourselves that even when we weren’t
really sure if it was possible, that one day we would
cross this stage. Today we get to do that. [APPLAUSE] Our time limit doesn’t
allow us to cry. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
I keep going. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: Every path we pursue, there
will be obstacles. If they don’t, we have to
ask ourselves if this truly is a path worth taking. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
So this brings us to the second major lesson
we’ve learned during our time here at Western. And that’s the importance
of fostering diversity. ANNE ELIZABETH
So Anne and I have come to appreciate
diversity in a broader sense– ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: More simply than our demographics of our
community, or the bubbles we fill in on
surveys and censuses, diversity is a religion,
its orientation, it’s income, it’s
marital status, it’s socioeconomic status,
it’s work experience, and it’s adversity. Diversity is what has
made our community here at Western family. And is it a key to
gaining new perspectives in solving our nation’s
problems for the future. Andrea and I would
have never guessed that we would become scientists. Nobody in our family
was a scientist. And we certainly didn’t
understand any science. And science did not
come easy to us. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
Additionally, it became evident to
both of us that there was only a small handful
of female scientists and even smaller number
of women of color. The odds felt stacked
against us but we were determined to try out science. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
Despite our complete lack of knowledge in
chemistry, we both spent hours and hours of
studying in conjunction with reading our chemistry
books cover to cover, doing every single problem
at the end of each chapter. My parents even began to
wonder if Chem 121 was a course or a new
boyfriend because they were seeing so little of us. Before we knew it, we
mastered our chemistry courses and we fell in love
with the subject. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: We
share this story with you to illustrate the necessity
of promoting diversity in our communities. When I look back on my
experiences in the chemistry major, I feel as though
all of my achievements were a product of fortuitous
course registration choices, incredible faculty support,
and a determination to do well. I was never urged by previous
teachers to consider chemistry. Nobody sparked a fire
for science in me when I was younger. And I had no scientists
as role models. ANNE ELIZABETH
D’AQUINO: How we came to be graduating with a degree
in science is truly a miracle. But now that we have
done it, it is obvious that our past
experiences will aid us in many of our
scientific endeavors. For many students
like ourselves, their life experience can
be used in one of two ways. One, it can preclude them
from endeavors and futures that they have never envisioned. Or two, their life can catapult
them into uncharted territory to try something
new and allow them to introduce their new
unique perspectives to a new field of study. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
It’s critical that we promote diversity
in our fields of study. Diversity is enriching,
it’s innovative, and it’s progressive. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
Now that you’ve endured this address,
we will leave you with a final question. Now that you have an
education under your belts, and we’re on the verge
of holding college diplomas in our hands, what
will all of you do next? ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO: As
Western graduates, many of us have already decided to dedicate
ourselves to our communities and to reach out to
those who need us. But sometimes, in
the stress of money, in the allure of self-profit, or
by unintentional indifference, we may lose sight of
those in our communities who need our help, those
students like my sister and I who needed
mentors and role models. We must promote
education to those who don’t believe they
have a chance at it. ANNE ELIZABETH D’AQUINO:
As we enter the real world, there will be many more
challenges, but even more obstacles and more
opportunities. As Western Vikings, we
will embrace all of those. ANDREA IVANA D’AQUINO:
As I see many of you are anxiously awaiting your own
chance to step onto this stage, I’ll conclude by encouraging
you to motivate yourselves and to be ambitious,
because the starting point of all achievement is desire. TOGETHER: Thank you,
and congratulations. [APPLAUSE] SPEAKER: Thank you for
those stirring words.

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