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Graduation — Class of 2013

Date: 5/13/2013



The spring class of 2013 crossed the stage to receive their diplomas on May 11, 2013, in the Sovereign Center. During the ceremony, Dr. Beverly Malone, CEO of the National League for Nursing received an honorary degree of humane letters and offered remarks to the crowd of more than 1,000, including graduates and their families. 

>> Candid Baccalaureate Photos   >> Candid Commencement Photos

Please note: individual photos (taken as graduates received diplomas on stage) will be available through Kopicki Photography.

PH: Francisco Contreras

In addition, Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice graduate Francisco Contreras (pictured above) offered a stirring speech to the Class of 2013 during Commencement. Below are his remarks. 

Little boy/young man
"I would like to start by saying thank you to the Lord for this beautiful day, thanks to my family, friends, and the Alvernia community for their supports. Please keep the phrase “Thank You” in mind as I tell you the story of a little boy, who remembers being five years old and getting up at 5 a.m., to go to work with his uncle in the agriculture field. 

This little boy grew up in a third world country (Dominican Republic) where there is not much opportunity for the lower or middle class to obtain higher education because its costs a lot of money. Since an early age, the little boy learned to overcome obstacles such as hunger, walking three miles to get to school, only having one pair of shoes, no money, no electricity, and not having his mother or father around. However, school, church, and family were his priorities. Also, they were his motivators to never give up and to try hard to achieve his dream of being an educated young man.

In 2002, at the age of 11, the little boy said goodbye to his great-grandmother, grandmother, uncle, and friends to begin his next journey. The little boy arrived to a first world country (the United States), only knowing how to say, ‘Thank You” in English. When the Customs Security Officer asked him questions, his eyes opened wide as he said, “Thank You” with a big smile because they spoke a “funny” language and thank you was all he knew. 

He brought along one small suitcase and a huge suitcase. The small suitcase contained two pairs of jeans, one pair of shoes, three t-shirts, four pairs of underwear, and gifts for his new family. The huge suitcase was full of dreams, goals, and hopes that the little boy brought from his country. One of his dreams was to be successful to help his family, one goal was to go to college to be educated, and one hope was to adapt to his new life and culture. 

In his new country, the little boy faced many obstacles and wanted to go back to work in the rice, plantain, and coffee fields. He felt strange because now he was living with his father, whom he barely knew and in a different environment. In middle school, he felt lonely because he wanted to talk to other students but he did not know the language. In high school, he felt segregated because other students made fun of the way he spoke and read in class. However, this just made him stronger and more focused in his academic studies. 

One day, he asked a teacher if he could be enrolled in the honors program and the teacher responded by saying “no, you would not do well due to your English proficiency." In his senior year, he applied to many universities and got accepted to all of them including Penn State main campus and Alvernia University. 

The little boy made his decision to go to Penn State University for his college education. At the last minute, the Lord sent an angel (Capt. Bill Jimenez) who told him that he should go to Alvernia University. Because the little boy tended to follow advice given by adults with experience, he decided to attend Alvernia instead of Penn State. Now an educated young man, he gives thanks to the Lord for putting Alvernia University in his path. 

Since the first day the young man set foot on Alvernia’s campus, he has felt loved, a sense of belonging, respected, and needed. He fell in love with the Alvernia community and its mission and core values. He started to apply the university’s core values to everyday life situations. Through service, he was able to participate in the Alternative Break program and in the Martin Luther King Jr., day of service. With Alternative Break, he was able to help his city (Reading) by serving in settings such as a church, a business, and a food shelter for a week. 

Also, he went to Ecuador where he helped poor families and children with backgrounds similar to his. Finally, with the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters, he had the chance to go back to his native country where he worked with adults and children. With humility, he was able to connect himself with God again. He grew up in a Roman Catholic family and being at Alvernia brought him back to his childhood memories. He learned to get along with others, to understand others’ feelings, and to encourage others by applying peacemaking in his life. Contemplation helps him find his inner self in difficult times. 

When family, school, work, or any life problems affect him, he closes his eyes’ and prays to the Lord for guidance. All his classes at Alvernia encouraged him to work with other students, so by applying collegiality in his life, the young man learned the importance of team work. 

In conclusion, the little boy who became an educated young man is me — Francisco Contreras — the first of my family to graduate from college and with honors. When I look back at my path, all I can say with a big smile is Thank You! Thanks to the Lord for making me who I am, thanks to my family that supported me, thanks to the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters for founding such a school that gives people like me an opportunity to accomplish their dreams. 

Also, thanks to all the professors who work so hard to help each student obtain the best knowledge possible. I consider some professors as family because they were always available to help me at any time, or any day. Finally, I want to say thank you to all the students because here they all treated me with respect, love, and understanding. No one laughs at how I speak or read English in class or in any part of the Alvernia community. Thank You!!"

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