Chester College of New England celebrated its 41st Commencement on Saturday, May 16 with 33 graduates receiving the Bachelor of Arts degree. Krystle Belanger, a photography, media arts major, gave the following Valedictorian address.
As I stand before you all today, I can honestly say that four years ago I wouldn’t have pictured myself here – with the 2009 graduating class of Chester College of New England… in my high school. But it is an honor and a privilege to be given the opportunity to speak with you.
Our years together have flown by, and in some instances have felt like an eternity. I can clearly remember the first day of orientation, being greeted by Dr. Petrakis, and thinking to myself, “What did I get myself into?” A lot has changed since then. Our circles of friends may have transformed, we ourselves may be different people, but we have been able to watch each other succeed in a myriad of ways.
Our time together at Chester wasn’t easy. Many hours were spent critiquing each others' work, pulling apart every detail while asking all of the important questions: “How is this Art?” and “Why does this matter?” - We got on each others' nerves, we debated and argued, some of us even cried, but we laughed too. Our ideas transformed and grew with every conversation. After all, what is art without the process? We pushed each other in ways that forced us to better understand ourselves as artists and as people- making every step worth the reward.
Today is a big day. A very big day. But by no means is this the “The Road Less Traveled.” … I think that part comes next – in the future days, or even years, when we all have to decide if coming this far is good enough. I hope we each continue to put our skills to work, building our own paths in the real world – The place where there are no grades to rank us, and judgment passes only on our actions and determination. I sincerely hope you each pursue your talents, whichever they may be, because I know you are all capable of greatness if only you are willing to work for it.
Today we walked into this room as a group – a unit that has supported one another. Take comfort in the fact that we leave as superbly educated individuals. We have been guided by an unyielding faculty that has gently pushed us to discover our artistic voices – voices that I hope won’t easily be silenced.
But we have to face the facts: in about three months we’ll be replaced. The freshmen are coming, and although our presence may linger shortly, it’s time to move on – time to take what we have learned and to begin living our dreams out loud. So good luck, and Congratulations!