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Christie Wienckowski, Valedictorian Speech 2010, Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus

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Alka Gupta,Assistant Director of Public Relations
Brooklyn Campus,
Long Island University
718-780-4137

Good Morning: distinguished guests, faculty and staff, members of the Board, President Steinberg, Provost Haynes, friends, family and my fellow graduates: we are all here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the Graduating Class of 2010 from the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University.

As I stand here in front of you today, representing the Class of 2010, I wanted so much to be able to impart words of wisdom upon you about our futures, but instead, I would like to look into the past and tell you the story of how it is I came to be standing here in front of you today.

In my senior year of high school, I was recruited to play lacrosse at Long Island University, but it wasn’t my only option. My choices were between LIU and Wagner College, on Staten Island. I remember my visit to Wagner very vividly; right away I fell in love with the school. When I was on my tour and stepped into their main building there was a very large window where I saw the most beautiful, iconic view of New York City. I could see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, it was like a post card and at that moment I knew I was going to Wagner. A week later I came on my visit to LIU’s Brooklyn campus and I realized that I was no longer looking at that iconic view, I was inside the view, LIU was a part of it. I was driving over the Brooklyn Bridge, I was standing at the bottom of the Empire State Building, I was cruising by the Statue of Liberty. At LIU I was no longer on the outside looking in, I was on the inside, where I belonged.

Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania I never really knew who I was or what I wanted out of life, as I’m sure many of you felt before entering college. However, once I came to LIU and New York City I slowly started to discover myself. When we all entered the college chapter of our lives we were trying to discover who we are, for me I was looking to gain my independence, to grow intellectually, to compete on a Division One level in lacrosse and ultimately to decide on a career. I’m not sure what all of your goals are, but nevertheless our goals unite us. Whether you came from a different part of Brooklyn, another borough, another state, or even another country, we all came to LIU for a single purpose, that is what we have in common, we are all trying to reach one goal: success in our own way in our own lives.

People from all over the world come to New York City seeking freedom, careers, success, excitement, whatever their own version is of the American Dream. How lucky are we that we got to study in the borough of Brooklyn, in the city of New York, where all of these opportunities are sitting at our feet.

Coming here has certainly taken me out of my element and it was a completely new experience. My town in Pennsylvania is very small, it is a place where I knew everyone and everyone knew me. Once I came to New York it was as though I was a needle in a haystack, I felt so small in a city that was ready to eat me alive. Coming from a town of about 32,000 people compared to the over 8 million that live in New York, I thought I had to be someone who could survive without any help, but then I realized I had so many people around me that were there for support.

When I came to LIU my coach told me that one of the things the lacrosse team does is run on the Brooklyn Bridge and I thought this was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. My first time being on that iconic bridge and recognizing that this postcard fantasy is now a reality I realized how the Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn to the rest of world. It is now our turn to connect ourselves to the rest of the world. While our futures may seem uncertain and we don’t necessarily know how or where we will connect, our education has given us the tools we need to succeed. Now it is up to us to use these tools and begin the rest of our lives. However, I’m sure not all of us have waited until this very moment to realize this fact, and we have been using these years to prepare ourselves to face what is ahead of us.

In my mind growing up happens during college more than any other time in our lives. When I came into LIU as a freshman, I have to admit my expectations for myself were not set quite as high as to become the Valedictorian four years later. My grades during my freshman year were average, and it wasn’t until I saw my sister getting 4.0’s at her college that I realized I could do something great as well. Because of this determination, I ended up excelling in academics and after my junior year I decided to stay in the city for a summer and get an internship in Manhattan. It was during this summer that I had to be more independent then ever before. I had to pay all my own bills, do my own grocery shopping, work a 9-5 job and really learn how to manage my time. I’m sure to some of you this sounds insignificant, that these tasks that most of you do everyday could not have possibly made me become a new person and really mature, but it is the little things that allow us to grow. However, in my situation, I was not only concerned with academics, but I had to grow within athletics as well. Being on the lacrosse team at LIU has definitely never been easy, we never had the best record or won a championship, but one trait our team possesses is that we never gave up. No matter how many times we were told we weren’t good enough, or didn’t have enough numbers, we still worked hard every minute of every game, pushing and willing ourselves to succeed. To see and be a part of such heart and determination is truly inspiring. And this year we beat Wagner, so I guess it is a good thing I didn’t go there.

All of these experiences are lessons that can’t be taught, but they have taught me. So, now that I’ve told you my story, here is my best attempt at imparting my Top 5 words of wisdom upon you: 1) Create the life you want to live, 2) The most important part of life is the people in it and the relationships you create, 3) An apple a day keeps the doctor away, 4) The best chicken wings can be found on West 4th street between 6th and 7th avenue, and 5) Life is filled with challenges but the real victory of overcoming these challenges lies within the journey. I thank LIU, the school of business, career services, and women’s lacrosse giving me this opportunity to learn.

I would like to take this time out to also thank the office of admissions for giving me the opportunity to be a student ambassador; my coaches, my teammates and my friends for always being there for me; my family for supporting me; and my parents for always allowing me to be who I wanted to be and motivating me to strive for the best things in life.

It is now our turn to really connect ourselves with the rest of the world and to walk over the proverbial Brooklyn Bridge. It is our turn to see what we are made of. You may be entering more schooling, getting a job, internship, or just taking a year off to find yourself, I don’t know, but what I do know is that we are now entering the next chapter of our lives, this chapter is a test, a chapter that asks us, “are you going to make it?” This question can’t be answered until we stand up and face it. Don’t be afraid and don’t settle for anything less than amazing, take these opportunities that we have been given and use them. Don’t stand on the outside looking at a view of your life, be the view, be the icons, be on the inside of it all. Congratulations Class of 2010!

Posted 05/18/2010

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