Video: Holt Outstanding Senior Doragnes Bradshaw’s Commencement Speech

Doragnes Bradshaw ’18, the outstanding graduating senior from Rollins’ Hamilton Holt School, reminds her fellow graduates that they will be defined by how they face adversity.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)


(Video by Simple Thought Productions)

The following is a transcript of outstanding graduating senior Doragnes Bradshaw ’18’s address to graduates during Rollins’ 2018 Hamilton Holt School commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12.

Good morning, my phenomenal fellow graduates, fabulous faculty, stupendous staff, esteemed alumni, Board of Trustees, donors, and our fantastic family and friends.

A special thank you to the dean, faculty, and staff for the great honor to be standing here with you today representing the class of 2018 as the outstanding graduating senior.

We have been on an amazing journey together. As adult learners with that title of “nontraditional students,” we’ve worn many hats and we’ve played many roles, steadily defining our purpose through the Rollins mission statement of global citizenship and responsible leadership while being educated to pursue meaningful lives. Or you may just be thinking, “Oh, dear lord, am I glad that I finally made it to this day!”

To be an outstanding senior sounds pretty impressive, yet preparing for this speech has probably been one of the greatest challenges of my life. What do I say to a group of graduates who each in their own way have been just as outstanding as I am? At one point, I got a little desperate and resorted to asking Alexa for help. I said, “Alexa, help me write my speech,” and she said, “I’m not quite sure how to help you with that!”

Nevertheless, here I am and here’s what I can share with you about my transformational journey at Rollins’ Hamilton Holt School.

I have been a hard worker, always aspiring to achieve the greatest things life has to offer, because the truth is that being alive is a gift I was given by a little girl who was still in middle school when she learned she was pregnant with me. It was not until I was 16 that I learned that my adopted sister was my mother. I was raised by my loving and humble adoptive parents who moved us from Puerto Rico to Florida to provide us the best life they could. I grew up in a huge Hispanic family with beautiful cultural traditions. I thank God that I was gifted with a supportive extended family that continues to grow. I learned to value family, relationships, and hard work.

In the words of Hamilton Holt, “Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results. Work—continuous work and hard work—is the only way to accomplish results that last.”

Like many of you, it has been a long road to get here, as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of two amazing boys, a stepmother of two bonus children, and a friend to others.

At age 43, I’ve experienced over 25 years of aspirational goals with personal and professional highs and lows. It was not until one of my greatest lows that I set off to achieve one of my greatest highs—to finish my college education. Having the courage to stop and say, I choose to do this as an investment for myself. I set off committed to make the most of this “college thing” at the same time as starting my own business.

I am forever grateful to the professors who fueled my fire. Dr. Jubelt’s encouragement to network led to my involvement on campus. Dr. Garcia’s down-to-earth reality that service to others can also materialize itself in the form of healing. It made me recognize that doing good for a cause close to your heart makes it even more rewarding. Dr. Bommelje, the listening seeker, who taught us an invaluable lesson that “active listening” doesn’t really exist. Rather, mindful listening occurs when you’re focused, attentive, responsive, and clear. Through their dedication, these professors and many others made a huge impact by living the Rollins values of excellence, innovation, and community.

Life is truly a beautiful gift! Yet, it also has a way of fiercely throwing curveballs at us that we don’t expect. I certainly didn’t expect to be unemployed after 24 years or have my husband diagnosed with cancer and undergo extensive treatment or to watch my father struggle with the reality of his Alzheimer’s disease or to lose my 35-year-old brother who served as a police officer in Puerto Rico. It was Rollins that reminded me to stay grounded, to remain positive, to reflect on the greatness in my life, and to appreciate what I had right in front of me.

If you’ve spent any quality time in the Knowles Memorial Chapel, you likely noticed the vividly colored stained-glass windows inside the building. The beauty of our campus chapel has been captured through countless pictures. If you’re like me, the chapel has been a place to retreat from the hustle and bustle or a place for worship and reflection. One day, as I was leaving the chapel, the gorgeous circular stained-glass window up above caught my eye, and I read the words “Wisdom is better than strength.” As someone once said, wisdom can be defined simply as “know it, be it, do it.” Wisdom is better than strength. In the worst of times, I have gained strength from wisdom. It affirmed to me that what lies within can be more meaningful and authentic than what’s on the outside.

With the wisdom to know better, I was inspired to explore opportunities with purpose. One of my greatest honors as a student was to serve in various organizations that spanned the Rollins community. I learned that to lead is to serve others first. I was thrilled to be serving alongside a diverse and inclusive student body, who genuinely cared and were eager to spread kindness. During our annual Wellness Fair, my student-government teammates had the fun idea of giving out pocket-size journals with inspirational quotes reminding students to reflect on life.

My favorite quote was “Do something ridiculously amazing.”

It was in these special moments when I realized that my calling was, and always has been, to serve others in a meaningful way. The Rollins educational journey gave me the courage to be true to myself, to recognize these learning moments, and to do something ridiculously amazing. It makes me feel happy to raise others in ways I had not ever imagined.

My friends and family have called me an overachiever. I call it being a servant leader because as Rollins and Mister Rogers have taught us: Life is for service.

Thank you to the entire Rollins community for inspiring me to be a better person. Thank you to our generous donors for giving back to provide students like me the financial support to pursue our dreams. I pledge to pay it forward.

Thank you, Rollins Hamilton Holt School, for giving these outstanding graduates an opportunity to shine without limitations. We have boldly accomplished what is the culmination of years of determination and continuous hard work.

To our family and friends, you’ve traveled this journey with us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking on more to help lift us to success, for raising our spirits when we were hard on ourselves, and for cheering us on when we might have wanted to give up.

We are here because you were there. And now we are proudly here together to celebrate what we did as a family.

To my children, thank you for being kind, patient, and understanding while standing by my side and sharing me with others. To my husband, the Incredible Hulk, you won the fight against cancer. Thank you for realizing that this was my calling. To all the moms out there, whether you’re a mom of a graduate or a graduating mom, know that you have led by example for your children. And today is one of the best Mother’s Day gifts we can ever give you.

Class of 2018, the journey continues to unfold, with endless opportunities to impact the world. Look at them from a new perspective. Live with meaningful purpose and your heart will be full of love and your mind will be full of wisdom. I encourage you to deeply listen and make time for those who make time for you. Don’t forget to take a golden pause—a moment to reflect upon situations and learn from them because how we face adversity will define us.

Looking around, I can’t help but feel a mixture of happiness and sadness for all that I am grateful for and for all that I will miss. But I look forward with strong conviction and not backward with regret because in life things happen for reasons that we often cannot explain.

We each got here in a different way through a different path. Don’t be afraid to share your own story. Others do not define us; we define ourselves. Stand behind what you believe with integrity. Whatever your calling may be, you have my greatest respect and admiration because you are outstanding seniors and you have done something ridiculously amazing.

My wish for you is to have the wisdom to be well, to serve others authentically, and have the courage to embrace the opportunities in front of you.

Peace, love, Fiat Lux, and congratulations!