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Resiliency Acknowledgements 2019/2020:

Laianne Guimaraes

Laianne Guimaraes

My adversities were Language and Finance. I am from a middle-class family in Brazil. A family composed of me and my single mother, who could not be much present as she had to work full time. For this background, learning English was not part of my childhood. Neither my youth, but I understood that I needed to learn a second language to excel professionally. I also desired to study finance, but Brazil, at that time, did not offer any bachelor in this field. That is when the US comes into the picture.

To learn the language and save more money to attend school, I spent a year as an Au Pair here in California. From this experience, the language barrier got smaller by the time I began attending school, but it was never easy to handle all classes in a second language that I had just learned.

Regarding money, although I had savings from back home and from my year as an Au pair, they were not enough to let me attend school without worries. I can’t describe in a few words what I’ve been through all those years. But despite all the temptations to give up, I sought alternatives in all directions. In my last year, thankfully, I got some help, including from Menlo College, which allowed me to postpone the financial struggles for after school. I am beyond grateful for all the support I got to overcome most of these adversities.

Today, I can say that those adversities have turned me into a resilient person who not only conquered a degree in finance while struggling financially; but who did so in a foreign language as well.

Ashlee Hunt

Ashlee Hunt

Throughout my college career while I gained invaluable experience and education that I would have never got anywhere else, this did not come without sacrifice. As a first-gen student coming from a lower middle class home, while my mother could care for myself and my 2 siblings in terms of putting food on the table and giving us a place to stay, the financial burden of education was just too much. And because federal aid failed to see the 360 view of my single mother’s financial situation, it was up to me to fund the majority of my way through college. During each year of college, instead of being able to fully focus on studies I had to work 3-4 different jobs both on-campus and off including Student Union Events Coordinator, Student Union Manager, part-time babysitter, Student Government Member and Event Marketing Intern. Although many of these positions proved to help me excel in my career and leadership capabilities, nevertheless to balance the demands of these positions while also maintaining my Dean’s List standing is evidence of my resilience. 

Giselle Martinez

Giselle Martinez

I attended Hoover elementary and middle school, which was right across the street from the 2 bedroom apartment that housed my parents, my three brothers, and me. My school, made up of about 94% of minority children, was so underfunded that sports and electives were non-existent. Still the students I had classes with came from incredibly resilient and hard-working families much like my own. A couple of us even got a geometry class approved in the eighth grade; a memory I fondly recall. 

I attended high school in Atherton, the wealthiest zip code in the United States. When I arrived I was floored by the myriad of electives, honors, and AP classes offered. My perception of a class demographic faced a paradigm shift. I felt greedy upon looking at the classes I could take. I stacked on all the AP classes I could, joined the choir, swim team and took guitar classes. I felt inferior every time I attended my AP calculus yet I learned invaluable critical thinking skills that allowed me to tutor the quantitative subjects I do now with ease. Compared to the students who had participated in club swimming all their lives, I was absolute rubbish in the water, but no matter how difficult things were I never gave up. Upon reaching Menlo College I made the most of our small campus by taking part in community outreach activities such as Tedx Menlo College, and bridge The Gap These experiences, motivated by the sedulous nature of my Latino heritage instilled a feeling of self-efficacy in me that I will carry onto my graduate studies.

Jessica Abbey Damian Padilla 

Jessica Abbey Damian Padilla 

Going through four years of college and having to deal with a chronic illness is one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve overcome. Having a chronic illness like Lupus means having unexpected flare ups. Having to complete assignments, midterms, finals, and other stressors of college while having random flare ups has shown me how strong I actually am. Fighting lupus everyday has shown me that I’m capable of so much and that everything I do is for myself and my health. Through academic and chronic illness, I know that there are things I can’t control, but it makes me aware of the things I actually can. My chronic illness will always be a part of me, but it will never define me. All of my adversities throughout my academics and health have taught me to be resilient and better myself.

Lucrezia Povero

Lucrezia Povero

Dear President Weiner, faculty, families, friends, staff, and fellow graduates of 2020. When I enrolled at Menlo, I never imagined giving a Valedictorian speech online, but I am honored to be the very first person to do so! Some of you may be glad, because you can finally attend a commencement while wearing your pajamas! This pandemic is helpful to remember we are all in this together. We are all facing a new experience.

During the last three years, I have been writing down every morning 3 things for which I am grateful, to have a sparkle of light even in the darkest periods. This morning, I want to thank Menlo, my family, and my friends for allowing me to grow, address adversities, and follow my ambitions.

Firstly, thanks to Menlo for being the example that different opinions, cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders, and sexual orientations, are the most precious treasure of humankind. This college showed me that we should drop labels and uncomfortable roles imposed by others, because we can bring much more value to this world by being the best, most authentic, version of ourselves. I learned the importance of business ethics, since caring about the environment and our society is not only moral but also profitable. Moreover, the Menlo Track team for which I had the privilege to run, demonstrated to me that discipline always pays off. Additionally, Menlo taught me that no matter your best intentions, you will always end up at the Patio at least once on the weekend!

Secondly, thanks to my family, for supporting me in this journey, even if the idea of having me away from Italy terrified them. My parents did not go to college and in my area, nobody that I know of completed the full University path abroad. However, my family always let me follow my instincts and aspirations. Thank you, Papa’ Luca, for inculcating that only our mind sets the limits of what can be done in life. Thank you, Mamma Mary, for passing down to me your humbleness, friendliness, and generousness. Thank you to my sisters Maury and Lety, for insisting that we should never apologize for dreaming big.

One of the most excruciating moments of my life occurred during my sophomore year. In August 2017, I left my hometown to go to California. My mum could not take me to the airport because she was sick. She had been struggling like a warrior against cancer for 8 years, but she had been able to conduct a fairly normal life until that day. A few weeks later, my dad called me and told me it would be good for me to come home. I booked the first flight, and 12 hours after I got home, my mum passed away, holding my hand. (Pause at least 3 seconds)

That awful time showed to me that there is a force more powerful than a hurricane, which lets us handle much more than we believe we can. We are strong. Stronger than our excuses, stronger than our fears, and stronger than the apparently unwinnable battles that life makes us fight, without asking for our approval. The death of my mum led me to be thankful for every instant of life, and never wait for anyone else to make my dreams come true. Even this global pandemic that is affecting all of us is an opportunity for our souls to adapt and thrive. 

Thirdly, thanks to my friends from all over the world, who acted as a family when my family was more than 6,000 miles away. Hugs, words of support, rides to the airport, get-togethers to celebrate my return, allowed me to cope with grief and move on. I have the craziest, best memories with you, some of which are better not to mention in a Valedictorian speech! I am sure we will make more memories in the future! It meant so much to me that some of you already hosted me in your homes!  All my beautiful friends, you will always have a home wherever I will be!

Today, I thanked Menlo, my family, and my friends for helping me to meet challenges, evolve, and build the life of my dreams. Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Starting tomorrow, I invite you to write down every morning three things for which you are grateful, and live your life as though everything is a miracle.

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