UMaine valedictorian Bailey West: ‘Graduating college is no small feat under any circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic’

Sun, 05/23/2021 - 10:30pm

The following is the commencement address of University of Maine valedictorian Bailey West of Stockton Springs:

Dear class of 2021, congratulations!

Our college years have been challenging to say the least, especially the past year. Graduating college is no small feat under any circumstances, let alone during a global pandemic.

Senior year did not look how we expected it: Zoom classes, the lack of crowds at sports games and traditions we typically enjoy, even this virtual commencement format. But we were creative and resilient, as were our professors and mentors who helped us adapt to these challenging circumstances.

We should be proud not only of the work we’ve done as individual students, but also of the creative ways we’ve come together and maintained the vibrant spirit of our Black Bear community. If there’s one thing I know about Black Bears, it’s that we push through our challenges, and today is a real testament to that.

For this, I want to say thank you to my fellow graduates for all you have done to make the most of these circumstances. I would especially like to thank the members of our graduating class and community who have served as essential workers throughout the pandemic, such as the nursing students who have helped many of us get vaccinated. And thank you to our professors, mentors, families, and friends for helping us get to where we are today.

We all come from different backgrounds, but we have one thing in common: we have persevered. With every challenge of being in college, we have grown in our resilience. Each of us has taken a challenging situation and gotten something positive out of it. It is clear that from our education, we’ve gained not only skills and knowledge but also character.

Many of you I’ve been fortunate to know personally throughout my time at UMaine, and many of you I’ve never met. But between all of us graduating today, we have thousands of diverse strengths that we have developed in college and have used to impact the UMaine community. Now, we will each go in our different directions and will use those strengths to impact our future communities.

Our hard work at UMaine has set us up not only for the work that we will do in our careers, but the ways in which we will engage with our communities, take on leadership roles, and pursue our hobbies.

Before too long, we will be immersed in the everyday hustle and bustle of our next endeavors and a newfound sense of normalcy. As we look forward to whatever is next in our academic and professional journeys, I sincerely hope we take this opportunity to pause and reflect on just how significant an accomplishment this is.

These are lessons we can take with us. In our next chapters, there will be new challenges, and our comfort zones will be further stretched. But that discomfort is a sign of growth, and in those moments we will be able to look back and remind ourselves of how we grew through the challenges of college.

Congratulations again Class of 2021, and best wishes in all you do!