2019 Class Address

Ezeka Tara Allen, president of the Class of 2019

I would first like to start off by thanking everyone that made this commencement happen: the commencement committee that started meeting in the fall semester to lay down all these chairs, to the people running around getting us to where we all need to be, thank you all so much. We really couldn’t have done all of this without you, so thank you. 

As I was coming up here to speak, I was very nervous. And I just looked out into the crowd, and I was like, these are my peers, these are people I’ve known for four years. I’m looking at my friends, and it makes me just feel so much less nervous and so happy to see all of you here today.

Like many of you, in August 2015 I packed up my life and said goodbye to longtime friends and family to come here to learn and grow. Like many of you, I occasionally questioned my decision to stay. But as the months continued, we chose to stay and take control of our circumstances. 

We got close to our roommates, joined clubs, tried out for teams, and worked on and off campus, and we became embedded in the Ithaca community. We also began to learn to rely not just on those back home, but to trust the bonds of friendships we have created here at Ithaca College. We opened our hearts to new relationships and our minds to new experiences.  

Some of those people, those new relationships lasted until today and you are surrounded by their love and praise right now. Some relationships ran their course but that’s okay because it is all part of growing up.  Relationships back home were tested — some relationships lasted, and some did not. Some of us unfortunately lost loved ones, friends and family members during our journey here. 

At this time, I would like us to take a moment of silence to honor the memory of all those we have lost during our journey including our beloved classmate Anthony Nazaire. Thank you. 

My heart is touched by the support that I have received from the Ithaca College community. Our family and friends at home as well as our newly built family and friends at IC have helped us through many difficult experiences and celebrated our successful ones on our journey to get to this moment. 

As an only child I have always wanted siblings and thankfully I found them here at IC. To my amazing sisters — Taylor, Triniece — that have coached me and given me unconditional love, thankfully I had the honor of meeting you both. To my amazing friends that were always there to give me a “Yaaass queen,” You have all played a vital role in my life and I am so thankful to have met all of you. 

To the faculty who have played a monumental part in our success, whether it was teaching us something in the classroom or teaching us something about life. We are forever grateful to know you were there to support us. To the staff members who helped with us with our schedules, helped make our dreams of seeing the world a reality, brought us out to lunch and gave us guidance, love and support — you are all an irreplaceable piece of our college journey. 

I encourage my fellow classmates to use this occasion to let the people at Ithaca College who supported your journey know how important they are to you. Do not leave this campus without telling them. Don’t do it. Email them, send them a video, let them know how important they are to you.

I know that without these connections encouraging me to persist I would not be standing here today. 

I know that this journey has not been an easy for any of us.  We have faced many challenges including failing exams, waking up late for 8 a.m. classes, missing the bus to campus, forgetting the about the syllabus, not reading the textbook, and all around improvising senior year. I know some of y’all submitted the ICC at like, the last minute. Turn in your ICCs!

I remember my freshman year I signed up for 17 credits, picked up a job in Campus Center dining hall, and tried to be involved in basically everything. Sound familiar? I even considered joining the crew team or the rugby team. Crew had far too many 5 a.m. practices and rugby was not father approved. Shout out to the student-athletes for being able to balance it all. You guys are incredible. However, I did get a little exercise freshman year walking up to the towers every day. 

One of the great things about Ithaca, whether inside or outside the classroom: we are not only inspired but encouraged to pursue our passions. I have been able to travel the world, participate in art shows, meet industry CEOs and build lifetime relationships. A lot of you were so inspired by your passions you turned them into your major. I have also had the pleasure of seeing many of you grow into the strong individuals I see now. 

Class of 2019 we have had quite the college experience. From the young unknowing first years that stepped foot on this campus to the young adults that I see before me. We have faced countless difficulties, but we handled them with nothing but grace and class. I am so proud of us! Especially the young, unexpecting first-generation graduates. This is something our families dreamed of. This is something our ancestors would’ve never even imagined. We are breaking down generational barriers. That is no easy task, and I am so incredibly proud of us!

Many of us would not be here today without our families that supported us financially and emotionally To the families, on behalf of the Class of 2019, I would like to say thank you. And a special thank you to single parents like mine who worked tirelessly to make these dreams a reality, who sacrificed so many times.  

To my father, Ezekiel Allen: I am so proud to call myself your daughter. You are my greatest supporter and my biggest annoyance. But I truly don’t know where I would be without you. I love you so much. 

But our journey doesn’t stop here. My wishes for you, Class of 2019, is that you all find your version of success and happiness and chase it, even if you must chase it around the world. Never lose sight of the connections and the lessons you’ve had here at Ithaca College. Don’t be afraid to fail or take risks and always try to fail forward, so you’re getting a little bit closer to your goals.  Take the lessons you’ve learned at IC and turn them into passions and create the prosperity that matters to you. 

To quote an inspiring actress, Kerry Washington: “Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.”

Congratulations Class of 2019. We finally did it.