Melisa Campos ’22 delivered the student speech
To the members of the board of trustees, President Johnson, distinguished guest Dean Nergis Mavalvala, faculty, staff, family, friends, and fellow members of the purple class of 2022: Good morning. It is a privilege to be here today sharing my story with you all.
September 3, 2018. One thousand six hundred miles. A four-hour flight.
Stepping onto Wellesley’s campus felt like stepping into a fairytale. I came from a very humbling background where I slept on a carpeted floor for the first years of my life because my family could not afford a crib for my twin brother and me.
And now, I was entering a prestigious institution known to challenge its graduates to become innovators that make radical changes in the world. I felt grateful for the second floor of Lulu, our campus center, where I would sit on one of the comfy couches and admire the spring bloom, for Professor Keane, who welcomed me into her research lab my first year, and for the dorm parties with the friends that eventually became my family at Wellesley.
But the more grateful I felt to be here, the more imposter syndrome consumed me. I quickly learned that I was not alone; so many other students were struggling to feel like they belonged. Here were the narratives that, as our generation says, lived rent-free in my head:
I was not good enough to be at Wellesley.
I was not worthy of taking up space.
I was just not enough.
I worked hard to be in spaces that were not created for me, yet when I entered these spaces, I felt afraid. The beautiful walks around the lake would make me feel a sense of groundedness that would quickly diminish as I questioned whether I deserved to be a part of something so beautiful. It was in these small moments when I allowed myself to shrink. To not fully be seen, because deep, deep down I believed that I had a copious amount of time to be vulnerable enough to fully take up space at Wellesley. The thing I didn’t count on was that my time in this space would be taken away from me.
On March 12, 2020, at 11:47 a.m. we received the email that none of us expected to be a reality. Reality was that we were being evacuated from campus, and that this pandemic would not only keep us away from each other for a semester, but for some, including myself, an entire two years. It was difficult for students to focus on their education while facing hardships at home. Hardships on campus and in the world. Hardships that continue.
But even through the hardship, we pushed through.
Class of 2022, congrats. I want you to take this moment, not only for us but for the past two classes. In person, not muted, or on a computer screen. We are physically taking up this beautiful space. There’s a quote from Katrina Mayer that says, “Rainbows remind us that even after the darkest clouds and the fiercest winds, there is still beauty.” Look around you; this is beauty. This space, these people, this moment is a part of our rainbow.
In the past four years, I have accumulated pieces of appreciation that I compiled to be a part of my rainbow. I’d like to share a few:
An appreciation for the beautiful orange change of color leaves in the Wellesley fall. We don’t have that in Texas. Leaves just die.
An appreciation for my Wellesley community. Professors empathized with students as they, too, tried to navigate Zoom university. In graduate school, you didn’t have to learn how to share a screen or set up breakout rooms, right?
An appreciation for student life. Students continued to meet up for clubs virtually. My heart was full as I attended an online Tupelos student a cappella concert from home.
An appreciation for the custodians and dining hall workers who would always remind me to “seguir echandole ganas,” keep putting in the effort. They saw their children’s hopes in me, and I saw my family’s desires in them.
An appreciation for my village at home and at Wellesley. As Maya Angelou says, “I come as one, but I stand as many.”
To my family, who moved to the United States so that my brother and I could be the first in this country to plant our seeds and grow them for our future generations. Gracias familia por siempre apoyarme cuando me tuvieron que dejar ir tan lejos en busca del sueño americano.
To KIPP, the public school that I attended for 14 years, whose mission is to improve the educational opportunities available to low-income families, thank you for helping me not only get to college but through college as well.
To my Posse, my fellow members of the Posse Foundation, it’s true. I didn’t drop out of college because I had my Posse.
Graduates, on this day, as we think back on our journeys, let us not forget to show gratitude to those mentors, parents, guardians, friends, conversations, villages, clubs, team members, those people and things that helped us get through the storm so that we could be here today, celebrating the rainbow.
Now I will present the newest additions to my rainbow: We were welcomed with a beautiful Science Center with wet labs. Goodbye, swimmy and videos of people dissecting frogs, and hello again, closed-toed shoes and long pants.
We got to say that we would study at Clapp with our friends, while we would really just go to one of the library rooms to procrastinate our lives away.
We got to go into Boston again, constantly checking the Senate bus schedule, to then run to one of the bus stops so that we wouldn’t be stuck in the city for another hour. Who knew I’d be nostalgic about that?
We got to pull all-nighters again, trying to write that paper or finish that p-set, knowing that we once again had Café Hoop to get us through the night with their late-night nachos.
Or El Table getting us through the long school day with their delicious sandwiches. Green Monster, I will miss you dearly.
We got to have not just one, but two Marmons.
And this was the year, 2022—my senior year!—that I mustered up the courage to be seen and heard. I left Wellesley as a sophomore not believing in myself and returned as a senior, taking back my power. I realized that I did not need to be the perfect Wellesley student I crafted in my head. I shed the belief that I did not belong, and instead embraced that I was exactly where I needed to be. We are all exactly where we need to be. Class of 2022, I see you. I hear you. I want you to repeat after me: “I am worthy of taking up space.”
Wellesley provided me the space to find myself. I hope during your time at Wellesley, that you, too, discovered yourself, discovered what nourishes and uplifts your soul, and discovered your worthiness as a whole, existing human being.
First-year me would be proud—not because of my GPA or the numbers that I was letting define me, but rather because I let that go.
Because I started embracing my voice, growth, and wholeness, which did not need numbers to flourish.
I am proud.
I am proud of every student who made it through the term system.
I am proud of those who felt like they did the bare minimum or the most to graduate.
I am proud of my Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, immigrant, low-income, nonbinary, trans, first-gen, and other minority sibs, who defied the odds and are here today.
I am proud of the uniqueness of this class, the only class to have experienced in their four years of undergrad Wellesley pre-pandemic, remote Wellesley during the pandemic, and the new normal of in-person Wellesley during the pandemic. We are one fierce class.
Class of 2022, continue to be vulnerable, to speak your truth, to unapologetically take up space, to show up during the storms and rainbows as your most authentic selves—your highest selves! In those ways, we will transform and change the hearts and minds of many people in beautiful ways. We will be the leaders that make the changes this country so desperately needs. So that children are no longer murdered in school, so that no other person must die because of the color of their skin, so that through our collective acts of service the injustices we experience together in this world can finally come to an end. As you become a part of transformative times, do not forget to give yourself grace, kindness, rest, and love. I applaud you, purple class. We did that. Today, we graduate!