ANNOUNCER: Mayra Bahena.


MAYRA BAHENA: Thank you, Dr Harken. I would like to thank the president, the platform party and all of the graduating class for giving me the opportunity to speak here. I am so proud of the first steps that I took to come to community college. I'm the first in my lineage, from my family, to come to college. And I have a goal.


Thank you. And I have a... And I have a goal to help young people, especially deaf children. Throughout my college career - oh! - I have experienced failure, many mistakes. You know why? College is so different from the Deaf world that I grew up in. I learned so many lessons at OCC. The experiences - oh! And I had a tough time. I failed a lot. I remember, still, times when I would close my eyes, saying, "How many times am I going to fail? It hurts so much!" Such painful lessons. Sometimes, really traumatic things. And even today, I struggle in everyday interactions with individuals. I have to be patient. People don't know sometimes. They're ignorant about deafness and I have to be patient because I'm an intelligent Deaf woman.


But I didn't always have the self-esteem that I have now. Before I went to OCC, I failed a lot. I had people that would put me down and got in my way of the goals and the dreams that I had. And once I took up my studies at OCC, again I failed and I made mistakes and I would cry every day, from challenges. I failed classes, I got Fs on tests. I was lost sometimes - I couldn't understand why, why I didn't get it. And I had a low GPA and I had to deal with a suspension. And it was really... People, they didn't understand and I needed to be given that extra chance. And sometimes I felt worthless because people didn't understand me. I felt like a lone wolf in this academic world. And sometimes, I thought maybe other students, maybe they're smarter than I am. And I'd feel worthless. But then I realised, everybody has their own experiences failing tests or classes and everybody knows what it's like to feel different once in a while. And everybody struggles. Everybody gets upset, especially when they have that fear of failure.

So... that realisation was such an important moment for me, because I realised, failure - that's a good experience. It helped me become stronger. It helped me become a more thoughtful student and it grounded me. And being grounded - that was freeing for me. It gave me strength. These were lessons that made me feel more independent and I realised people couldn't put me down anymore and couldn't cast me aside. OCC has prepared me for the next chapter of my life. They've made me a smarter Deaf woman. I'm here before you today. And it has equipped me with the possibilities and full potential that I need to be a positive role model for children when I become a teacher myself.


Now I have to tell you - I've been accepted to three universities!


Thank you. I am living the American dream and I am gonna continue to persevere. There's challenges that await me and I have to complete them. Because inside me, at the end of the day, I have to complete the goals that are most important to me and there is a fire that burns inside me and it burns brighter than the fires around me.


I know that I can achieve my goals. It is so important to me. So these OCC teachers, the counsellors, my fellow classmates and the DSPS student services in the office - they're the ones that pushed me hardest, because they didn't give me any limits. They wanted me to succeed and wanted me to have a better life and a great future. So with this tremendous support, I know that I'll continue to find my balance and I won't be falling down so much. So, self-worth. That's an experience that's gained and it makes you stronger because you keep going, so don't give up. Don't quit during tough times. It doesn't matter if you've got a tough teacher, maybe you're just overwhelmed with homework. If you're feeling bullied and pressured, maybe family, friends, peers, maybe you're in a tough relationship.

Hey - these things take life to a new level. So remember to keep going and don't quit. If you fall down, if you fail - try again. Until you reach the top. And then, if you get to that top and you're not satisfied, keep climbing. Keep going till you're on top of the world. Don't give up. Doesn't matter if you're halfway through and you feel like you're falling - don't give up on your goals. You guys have been working so hard on your dreams and they're waiting for you. So don't let people block your way. Don't let people try to put you down and don't take any negativity that would give you any self-doubt and don't let anyone make you falter. If someone blocks you, you know what to do - be flexible. Change direction. Why? Change. Oh! There's so much that can guide you to new opportunities. Life's always changing and you can always have the opportunity of finding a new door, like tonight. We are standing at a new door together, full of potential. So please, continue to chase your dreams. Believe in yourself and really celebrate your achievements tonight. Congratulations, everyone, and thank you so much.



ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Mayra. Unbelievably motivating and inspiring. Thank you.

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