Rachel Callaway is an HPU senior and president of the Student Government Association. The following is a transcript of her speech to the Class of 2020 during Opening Convocation on Aug. 22.
Good morning and congratulations. You made it to High Point University.
On behalf of the student body, I want to welcome you to your new home for the next four years. This will be an indescribable journey, and each of you will grow in different ways that you never thought were possible. But along the way you will have choices. Some may lead to incredible life altering moments, while some may bring you mistakes. I’d like to offer you five pieces of advice that I have picked up through my years here. Some come from our outstanding professors, staff and friends, and some are from my internship and jobs, as well as my beautiful mother. While I am young, I speak not only to the freshman, but to everyone in the audience. You are never too old to change and grow.
My first piece of advice is to be humble and be kind. Every person has a struggle, and every person has a story. Each person you meet has been through their share of battles. You will meet some incredible people here: people such as your RA’s, who will wake up at 3 a.m. to unlock your door. Professors, who will give up their lunch and holidays to make sure you understand material. Campus enhancement, who will clean up the bathrooms and elevators. And staff, who will let you sit in their office and vent, even over the little things. Every person plays their part in the greater whole, and no person is more important than another. No one is above or better than another. We are all humans with flaws and dreams. John 8:7 says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” That’s something we all need to remember from time to time, myself included. Be a positive influence on someone’s day, and a catalyst to make another person’s day brighter – even if it’s just a “thank you” or a smile. While yelling and anger may produce short-term solutions, kindness and patience will create long-term solutions and products.
Second is to never settle. Do not let the words “good enough” keep you from achieving and believing in yourself. Be an advocate, stand up and speak out for greatness and excellence. Don’t settle for what the status quo is, just because it’s working. They say if God closes a door, He will open a new one. Well, whoever “they” are, I think they got a couple things wrong. Sometimes you have to find a window. Sometimes you have to break down a wall and build yourself a whole new door. Don’t be afraid of making that new door. Those who follow you will be thankful that you had the courage to.
Third is to be yourself. Challenge yourself. It’s OK to change your mind. You may not love your major, and it is OK to change it. College is a time to find out what you want to do, what makes you tick, what makes you, you. Change, transform and grow. You can only do these things if you are yourself. Never let anyone tell you who you should be, what mold you should fit, or how they want you to be. Those who will stay in your life will love you because of who you are, not because of some mold you shaped yourself into for them to love.
Fourth is to never do anything for the money, power or recognition. These things will not buy back time. They will not bring you back your friends or family. They will not cure a broken heart, or help you fix a tire. While these three things are amazing to have, find something you love. Something that wakes you up in the morning and fills you with joy. Strive to wake up each morning knowing that you are making a difference for someone or something.
Fifth is to take time for the little things. This campus is gorgeous and it is easy to forget to stop and look around at the beauty that God has surrounded us with. Take the time to call your parents, and not just for money. Take a moment to ask your professors about themselves. Write a hand-written thank you note to someone who’s helped you. Compromise with those you live with. You will be living with others and be surrounded by different types of people. Look beyond yourself and notice what makes your roommate laugh. Take a moment and be thankful. Thankful you are here, thankful you have the air in your lungs, thankful for the opportunity to wake up every day and have the freedom to learn inside of a state-of-the-art classroom from top professors.
With that being said, Class of 2020, you have numerous wonderful opportunities ahead of you. You have accomplished great things thus far. I know that with the people and resources here you will only continue to grow. I look forward to seeing many of you rise as leaders on and off of our campus. Some of you will travel to new countries to learn, find the love of your life, or find your passion. The possibilities are endless. I wish you the best of luck.
And don’t forget to thank those who got you here. Be proud of yourself for getting here, and thank those who will help you on your journey here. And welcome home. Welcome to High Point University.