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To the Class of 2016

Congratulations to the Class of 2016. You did it!

You put in the hours of blood, sweat and tears. All of it for an experience of a lifetime. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. You may have put in all the work to get a piece of paper that says you have learned all about *insert subject*. In all actuality, while this does hold true, you also have to realize that that piece of paper has more than just your education. It shows off the journey that you’ve taken to get to this point; at least to you.

The biggest challenge you face now is finding what you want to do for the rest of your life. That doesn’t sound fun though and I have my degree! Well, let’s be honest here… Some of you may have your plans already figured out, which we add is GREAT! That is awesome. However, there is a good portion of you that have just graduated and are asking, “Okay, now what?” Go out and find a job? Continue on to college/graduate school? The choice is yours. If you have a plan, great. If you don’t, don’t worry too much. Yes, it will be hard to find jobs and it won’t always be the job that you want, but don’t let that discourage you. Some of the most interesting people in the world didn’t know what they wanted to do until their late 30’s, even 40’s. And you know what? Some of them still don’t know and they’re making it. Now, we don’t wish this upon you, but just be aware that it is not always going to be easy now that you are out of school.

The best advice that we can give you? Find your motivation, happiness, and goal. Have it? Now hold onto that. Never let that go. Even when you hit rock bottom, stay hopeful. Think back to your motivation and let that drive you. Remember everything you’ve worked for and know that there is more out there. There will always be opportunities out there. You just have to work your butt off and be yourself. If you do that, nothing will stop you.

So, as you graduate, never lose your optimism and fighting spirit. Take it all in and be thankful. Thankful for the people, places, and causes that you have embraced over the course of your time. Always remember. You, are enough.

Congratulations, Class of 2016,

Our Stories, Your Legacy

Open Letters from the Authors:

Steven Souriyadeth:

It did not hit me right away, in a way that I expected for it to take the wind out of my gut and bring tears to my eyes. Maybe walking across that stage was a metaphor that I am still waiting for to come to fruition. From the time I am writing this, it has been approximately a year since I earned that diploma.

It took me approximately 6 years to complete my bachelor's degree, and looking back on it, I have to be proud that I did as much as I could, and earned as much as I can. Do I have regrets that there were some things that I could have placed a little more effort into? Of course, but the direction that I willed myself towards, and working closer to the dreams that I have set for myself, I would not try to do it any differently.

I want to try to reevaluate myself at every anniversary of my graduation; by doing so, I want to pay it forward that the education I am so devoted to, continues to be the foundation that uplifted me to success. Take care of every effort that you put in to improve yourself, it will continue to move you a step closer to where you want to be.

Tyler Pederson:

As graduation approaches for UW students, and for those that have already graduated in the past weeks, I’d like to say Congrats. You did it.

I look back on my time as a student, both in high school and college, and reflect on what I’ve been through to get to where I am today. The first time I walked across that stage in high school I knew I was going to go to college. However, I had no idea what I was going to do. And that is me being completely honest. I had an idea of what I thought I wanted to do, but life is all about learning; not only academically, but self awareness as well. Going into college I had no idea what I was actually getting into.

My experiences in college were just like the times you hear about in stories. There were parties, there was drama (don’t let anyone tell you drama ends in high school, it keeps going, you just have to avoid it), there were LATE nights in the labs, taking exams on no sleep, etc. I struggled early because of the workload. I questioned myself to whether I was even able to handle it all, but deep down, I knew I could. And that’s one of the biggest takeaways from college.

You will go through your education learning about yourself. What you can handle and what you truly want to do. You may come in with an idea, but along the way you might find out that isn’t what you wanted to do at all and you fall in love with something else. 75% of the time that stays true to those going to college. The biggest thing here is to stay true to yourself and believe that you can make it.

As I sit here and look back at each time I walked across that stage, my degree holds more than you’ll ever know. Sure, it may say, Bachelor of Science, but what it doesn’t show is all the experiences that I had along the way. Some good, some bad. Do I have regrets? Yes. If I had a chance to change those decisions, would I? No. Yes, we all wish that we had made better decisions, because it is easy to put that blame on yourself. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I would have made those particular decisions. Regret? Yes. Change them? No. Like I said, it shapes you to the person you are today. I set my mind to what I wanted to do and those are the decisions I made. And if you make a bad one, you learn from it and do it better the next time it comes up. That’s what growing up and going through these experiences is all about.

With all of that said, never forget what you’ve gone through to be where you are today. Remember what motivated you to make it through all those times and harness it. Keep that in mind, because that is the exact same thing you’ll go to today when you need motivation. As long as you stay true to yourself, you’ll always see the light at the end of long tunnel.

Zvon Casanova:

With graduation only being a few days away, the realization of graduating from the University of Washington Tacoma creeps up closer and closer with every day that passes by. I look back at my four years at UW Tacoma and see how much I've grown throughout each year. During my journey in college, four years felt like a lifetime, but at hindsight, I realize it only took up a small part of my life. Regardless, those four years have created a huge impact on my life helping me grow for the better. College opened my mind and helped me understand who I am becoming as an individual through the challenges I face, the relationships I build with others, and the moments I experience overall. I'm thankful for everything, even adversity. Adversity can haunt us, hurt us, and in some cases deeply engrave into our memories, but it's a lesson learned in time that you should never forget your past experiences whether if they were good or bad. Everything you have gone through and every choice you have made are what make you the person you are today which can set you up for a greater future - a stronger version of yourself. College itself will aid you with that process. College will open your mind and teach you about finding yourself. You will realize this as time passes by. Then when graduation is a few days away, it will hit you, maybe not until the day of or even after, but you will be thankful for every challenge you faced, every good and bad moment you had, and every choice you made. After that, life will continue from there and you'll continue your journey to become the strongest version of yourself. A lot of people would say that college is difficult, and it is, but that is the beauty of it - we can't get stronger without going through a struggle. For me personally, if I had the chance for another try, I wouldn't change a thing because every single choice that I have made throughout my life has made me who I am today and I am proud of it. I can only expect myself to grow even more after graduation. With graduation approaching, it's a sad bittersweet feeling, but I am just as excited as my journey for something greater is just beginning.

Andrew Phommavongsay:

Graduation is more than just a piece of paper and a ceremony. It marks a transition in life where you can leave it all behind. That the piece of paper you hold in your hand represents years of experiences that shaped you to the person you are today. Relationships, parties, drama, stress and successes all are worth something. Don't neglect the experiences you had, don't brush it aside because it is apart of you. That getting a degree means you are worth more than what meets the eye. I encourage you to reflect on it, remember what happened to you and accept it. Move on, because you're entering a world where you can create for yourself. Self reflection is something we all miss, but if we can take the time to reflect on who we are it'll help us. It's like a self-check for us to remember who we are, why we're here and what we came to do. Take the time not for anybody else but, for your own good.

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