Looking Back, Leaping Forward: To the Class of 2019

Now a full year into my freshman year at NC State, I find it hard to accurately describe how much my life has changed—how different I am now than I was last August.

So much experience has been crammed into the last few months that I simply can’t believe that I was a high school senior less than a year ago. I’ve tried new hobbies, I’ve reached many of my goals, I’ve made new mistakes, and I have learned countless lessons that will, hopefully, prevent me from making these same mistakes in the future.

When I first arrived at NC State, I saw an opportunity to redefine myself. The way I saw it, before me lay a long list of first impressions to make. I could pursue new interests, find new friends, and establish myself within groups that I did not have access to before. The resources at my fingertips felt limitless, and the possibilities were even more vast.

I’ll admit, sometimes it felt almost overwhelming. Just looking at my email alone, opportunity seemed to rush in like a flood. But as my experience grew, so too did I along with it. Through pursuing my interests, I found some of my passions. I began to come out of my shell and I learned what it means to be an adult for the first time, as well as what it means to be treated like one.

But this blog post was never just about me, so I want to dedicate the rest of it to a more recent learning experience, as well as to the graduating Class of 2019. Last month, I was given the opportunity to attend the Goodnight Graduation Gala. Now, I’ve never been to a gala before, so I had no idea what to expect. What I was imagining was somewhere between the Met Gala and Finalist Interview Day, but somehow without the nerves or anxiety. Regardless, I dressed in my best suit, put on my best tie, and made my way to Reynolds Coliseum.

What I expected and what I experienced quickly became two very different things. From my table at the back of the room, I witnessed the most respectful, emotional, and well-organized send-off that I have ever seen. We listened to the wise words of the pro staff and Dr. Goodnight himself, ate a wonderfully prepared meal, and mingled with the members of each cohort under the red and white lights of the redecorated coliseum.

Finally, there came the time to recognize each and every graduating scholar. One by one, each scholar was called to the stage to receive a tassel and a frame, as well as to be recognized for their past four years of experiences and achievements.

Between your volunteer work, community service, research experience, and academic success, you have all left me proud to be a Goodnight Scholar.

Now I know that many of you were there—I know that many of you don’t need a reminder to know that the Gala was a wonderful event. However, this final recognition was my most recent lesson. Every single one of the 50 scholars recognized amazed me with how much good they had already done.

Being the current blogger for the Class of 2022, I have been granted a platform that many don’t currently have. I am grateful for this fact, as I can now use it to directly address the graduating Class of 2019.

Between your volunteer work, community service, research experience, and academic success, you have all left me proud to be a Goodnight Scholar. You have left me thankful that the responsibilities entailed with this title are being handed-down to me and our fellow Goodnights. You are leaving enormous shoes to fill, and I know that I have a lot of growth ahead of me. Be assured that I am not daunted by the potential that I have yet to reach, but rather inspired by the heights that you challenge me to climb.

Not only have each of you have already accomplished so many great things for NC State and the surrounding communities, you have done so for the sake of helping others. Not only have you used the opportunities granted by the Goodnight Scholars Program to drive positive change, but you have gone beyond and created these opportunities yourselves. Among your many collective achievements, you have organized service events extending to Raleigh and beyond, you have conducted ground-breaking research, and you have traveled the world to help lend aid to those less fortunate.

Looking back to my Finalist Interview Day, which feels like a lifetime ago, I remember being told that the Goodnight Scholars Program isn’t a reward for our past successes, but rather an ongoing commitment to our success in the future. And if there’s one last thing that I may take away from you, the Class of 2019, it’s that you have shown me what it means to be a Goodnight Scholar.

Thank you, and good luck.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program