Video: Valedictorian Gabbie Buendia’s Commencement Speech

Gabbie Buendia ’19, one of Rollins’ five 2019 College of Liberal Arts valedictorians, encourages her fellow graduates to be proud of their accomplishments and embrace uncertainty.

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

Video by Simple Thought Productions

The following is a transcript of valedictorian Gabbie Buendia ’19’s address to graduates during Rollins’ 2019 College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 12.

Good morning, class of 2019, friends, family, faculty, staff, and everyone else who came to help us celebrate and reflect on our time here at Rollins.

I am honored to represent our class and my fellow co-valedictorians Karly Bland, Lizzie Berry, Madison Jenkins, and Catherine Linder.

As we all sit in anticipation, I thank you all for giving me the next few minutes of your time, and I would like to thank all of my friends and mentors who have supported me and kept me laughing throughout my college career. I encourage everyone to think about the people who fill this role in your own life and make a point to thank them sometime this week as well.

Also, Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s hear it for all of the moms and mother figures celebrating with us today. We wouldn’t be here without you—literally.

OK, so I’m going to be honest here. I don’t have any foolproof advice, and there is no hidden secret to success that I’ve tapped into and can share with you all.

The truth is, I don’t necessarily have any more life experience or qualifications than anyone here, and I have just as much anxiety. But I am honored and ready to start exploring our post-graduation journeys together. Because today, after years of following our own paths and passions, we all get to share the wonderful achievement and title of “Rollins College graduate” while experiencing the mixed feelings of uncertainty and optimism for what comes next.

Thus, the only thing I can tell everyone here right now with confidence is that I am proud of you. And all of the loved ones who have joined us here in this gym and are cheering us on from the overflow rooms are proud of you.

And surely, you are proud of the classmates sitting next to you right now. The same classmates who played Fox Day Roulette with you during your first year to the ones who made your last Fox Day a few weeks ago one to remember. The ones who cheered in the stands with you during soccer, basketball, and lacrosse games. And the ones who stayed up with you all night in Club Olin until the very end. We are all proud of you.

Before we could even stop to think about it, we’ve watched each other transform from bold first-years without a clue into college graduates who maybe still don’t have a clue but at least have a degree to convince people otherwise. What’s not to be proud of?

While some may say this is just the beginning, so many of you have been sharing your talents and passions with all of us throughout these four years, and this is just a continuation of your greatness. Whether your strength is in writing a compelling paper (sometimes the night before) or making an audience laugh and cry through your stage performances or in making those around you feel comfortable and welcome—there is no reason why we should stop aiming to make each other and ourselves proud with these talents. Now that we’ve already done it at least once, we can now face the new highs and lows that we are about to encounter with courage and wisdom.

Regardless of what attracted you to Rollins in the first place, what kept you motivated throughout, and what you’re looking forward to tackling next, you deserve to continue aiming for goals that get you so excited that you can’t wait and won’t quit until you see yourself achieve them. You deserve to be as wildly ambitious and optimistic as the Rollins construction schedule, and while that’s a lot to live up to and everyone here has high aspirations for you, I hope that you don’t view that as a challenge that is too big, but see it as an opportunity that is already yours.

Class of 2019, congratulations once again on making it to this impressive accomplishment. And for one last time, anchor down!