Student Success Stories - Jason Boyle
Jason Boyle was chosen by his classmates to give the address at Commencement in May 2011, when he earned an Associate in Arts degree in liberal arts. Jason is now studying at Rutgers University. Below are his remarks, discussing “success.”
Here we are, fellow graduates of Salem Community College. It feels pretty good doesn’t it? Salem Community College celebrates the diversity of its students, which is clear from the students who are here today. We all learned together as classmates, different in many ways, such as our backgrounds, our previous experiences, our hometowns, our majors, and our future goals. However, with all of these differences, we gather here today with one thing in common; we succeeded at Salem Community College, and that is an accomplishment that can never be undone. And it truly is a great accomplishment.
But as we gather here today, one last question still remains, why? Why did we choose to earn a degree or certificate at this college? I was asked this last fall. One evening when I was getting my hair cut, an employee pleasantly asked me where I went to school. “Salem Community College,” I immediately replied. She then expressed a curiosity as to why I chose Salem Community College. I needed to take a second to think before I could reply. I needed to examine my experiences during my time here and how they changed my life.
The first time I visited SCC, I took the Accuplacer placement test and I was required to write an essay on whether success was based on luck or hard work. This was an interesting undertaking for me, since I had never thought about what success actually means. What is success?
Is success becoming wealthy and famous; elevating oneself in society? Is success the way others view your accomplishments? My two years here at SCC have led me to believe that success truly is in the minds of individuals and how they view their own accomplishments, no matter how small they might be. Fellow graduates, you and I are here today as recognition of our accomplishments, to receive a degree or certificate stating that we completed a list of prescribed academic studies, proof to show other colleges or employers that we finished our required classes.
But we have also completed individually successful projects we can be personally proud of. For me those came in the form of a research paper I wrote for U.S. History class, a persuasive speech debating a current issue, and a glass art project that required me to think about myself in ways I never had before. In the end, our diplomas are pieces of paper designed to prove to others that we’re qualified to move onto the next stage, but the experiences of producing items, like the ones I mentioned, have changed our developing minds, and they will always be successes of which we can be proud of for the rest of our lives.
I have learned that in order to become successful, regardless of luck or hard work, there must first be opportunity. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hardworking or talented you are, because without the opportunity to try, you can never achieve your goals. Opportunities are the most crucial aspects of being a successful person: this might very well be the most important fact I learned during my time here.
Attending community college is an opportunity that we all pursued. It’s true that Salem Community College is a small school, we all know that. But whether or not it is a good school can be measured in the level of opportunities it presents to its students. And thinking back, I would say there were plenty of opportunities available for us. The college presented us with the opportunity to study diverse disciplines, perform music in front of an inviting audience during the SCC coffeehouses, help plant flowers on campus for Earth Day, and listen to numerous guest lecturers discuss fascinating social issues. The college gave us the chance to meet incredible professors who wouldn’t hesitate to personally answer any question we had, were happy to write us letters of recommendation, and would gladly let us sit in on a class or two simply because we were interested in that particular subject.
So, I ask you sitting here today to think about how and when your successes here at SCC began. My successes here began early, when I was invited toattend the first semester meeting of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, which would give students the chance to enhance leadership and scholarship skills to help us gain admission to the best possible universities. Also, there was free pizza at the meeting. Guess why I decided to go? I went for the free pizza. However, after becoming an active member of the chapter, I was presented with life-changing experiences such as making new friends and attending the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Seattle. I experienced flying in an airplane, touring the Seattle underground, and eating dinner in the rotating Space Needle. Just because I seized the opportunity to eat that free pizza, I gained motivation to strive for higher academic standards and pursue a degree in law, and ultimately earned acceptance into my university of choice, Rutgers University.
So think about it, what were your most significant opportunities? How did they benefit your future? Believe me when I say opportunities are out there and taking advantage of the opportunities available, no matter where you go, is essential to your success.
Only then will you be ready to answer when people question why you decided to attend community college, like I did when I replied to the question, “Yes. I am attending Salem Community College and I have been having a great time there so far. They have some really great teachers and there are a lot of opportunities there.”
So as we now move forward, whether toward a career or further education, I have confidence that everyone here will apply this knowledge to their lives; taking advantage of opportunities is the first step to success.
And don’t be afraid. The true enemy of success is not failure; it is the fear of failure -- the fear of making a mistake. When I performed during my first coffeehouse here, I messed up the song I was playing, but the need to correct my mistake and play the song correctly drove me to play during the next open-mike night with more motivation to get it right.
One thing I implore everyone here to remember, years from now when you have all forgotten who stood here and spoke today, is this: a mistake is only bad if you don’t learn from it. A failure that teaches you something can be just as important as a success. And with this in mind, everyone here today can achieve their goals. And that I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, is what success means to all of us.