NYIT 2016 Commencement Speaker

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Good morning everyone. It is such an honor to be standing in front of this amazing faculty and staff, and all my fellow graduates who had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning and still look great. Well, our day is finally here. As I started to work on what I wanted to say today, it hit me … my story is your story.

Every story has a beginning, and my story started before I was even born. In Georgia. Of course you can tell by my accent I mean the Republic of Georgia, not the state. When I was in my mother’s womb, she prayed I would be a boy. In fact, when she found out I was not, she was tempted to keep my gender a secret. You see, in our culture, men are valued more than women. So right from the beginning, there was a big stop sign in front of me. I knocked it down.

From a very early age, I loved computers. But in my country that was considered “men’s work.” I remember one of my high school teachers telling me, “It doesn’t matter how hard you work; in the end, guys perform better because their brains work better for computer science, and there is nothing you can do about it!”

But there was something I could do about it. I could come to NYIT, work hard to become the person I wanted to be, a leader in computer science, and be part of a society where my story is the story of just about every single student I would meet. At NYIT, we are people who didn’t get handed everything life has to offer. So, with the support of classmates, teachers, and family, we learn to grab for it. And now, for many of us, against all odds, we are getting our degrees.

I know in this audience, there are families and guests who still don't know what defines an NYIT student. So I would like to tell you that the spirit of NYIT students is to work hard and never give up. I’ve seen students take on huge projects, plan big dreams, and let no one tell them they are not good enough.

Students here work 24 hours a day—classes, jobs, volunteer work, leadership positions. And being part of this NYIT spirit made me stand up and raise my voice (even though English is not my first language and I was making 5 mistakes in 10-word sentences). My NYiT education opened up so many opportunities for me. This shy girl started a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, …. landed several internships, and became the first Google student ambassador at NYIT. And in the end, I ended up standing here in front of you.

I’ve learned at NYIT that it doesn’t matter if you’re from China or California, if you’re going to be an architect or a doctor, if you’re rich or poor, male or female. What matters is to grab for your future. In the end, you are the one who controls it. We all did that at NYIT. And today we are graduates.

Congratulations to all of us and thank you.

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