We finally did it! Can we give ourselves one more big round of applause? I look around this room and see so many strong and amazing individuals. Gateway gave us all the chance to show the world – and those who wrote us off as failures and drop outs – that we are so much more. I started Gateway when I had just turned 16. I still remember orientation; I was so scared. I had no idea what I was about to walk into. I sat down at the table with everyone else, and from there my adventure began.
Gateway became my home, and all of you and those before some of you became my family. We all work together, eat together and even take naps in the halls together. The three wonderful women who run this program will always hold a special place in our hearts: Marci, Jenna, Vanessa and now Glenda. You ladies help us know we can do so much more. You encouraged us, gave us tough love when needed, but most importantly you believed in all of us.
Everyone comes to Gateway for different reasons. Look around this room and everyone here has a different past and different struggles, but what we all have in common is we wanted more out of our situation. For me, I’m here because I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that causes me to be in pain every day for the rest of my life. My illness stopped me from attending school, being with friends and doing anything that I enjoyed. I thought my life was over. I knew that I couldn’t just sit around and let this pain ruin my future, so my mom helped me make that first step and here I am now. I graduated from both high school and college, and I’m only 18.
For whatever reason you’re here, be proud of yourself for making that first step and everything that followed. A quote from Robert Frost that I’ve always held dear in my heart states, “Accept no one’s definition of your life. Define yourself.” Through Gateway I have found myself. I have made lifelong friendships, memories that I hope will last me a lifetime, and opportunities I never thought I would get.
I have been in Gateway for almost three years and in that time so much has happened. For those who haven’t been here as long, I hope Gateway changed your life for the better as it did mine. I would like to thank my mom and dad for always being there for me and supporting me. You guys are truly the best. I’d like to thank Marci for her passion and dedication.
Marci, you work hard to make sure everything runs smoothly and we all have what we need to be successful. Thank you for that. I then want to thank Jenna for her kind heart yet tough love. Jenna, you have listened to me, and I’m sure all of us at one point, complain about something going wrong or when things are hard. You always know what to do and show us to do it for ourselves. You have made a difference in my life, and I would like to thank you for that. Vanessa, I miss you so much!! I would like to say thank you for always being there when emotions ran high or low. You are a beautiful person who also has impacted my life. From all of our office conversation and laughs, you helped me through a lot. Glenda, I may have never truly got to know you, but from what I hear you are doing a great job. Thank you for all you do. Lastly I would like to thank all of you graduates. You have made my Gateway experience amazing. I am so thankful to have met all of you.
Congratulations class of 2017, we did it!!!