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WGU Graduate Speaker, Chris Cox, Summer 2015

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Chris Cox, Summer 2015
Western Governors University
<p>His whole life, Chris Cox of Atwater, California, had been told, "You can't do that!" His cerebral palsy had set physical limitations, but his mind was strong and he had academic and career goals he was determined to achieve. With the help of his mentor—who was himself overcoming debilitating mouth cancer—and a robust support system at WGU, he earned his bachelor's degree in Information Technology. He and course mentor Mike Peterson shared Chris' story at WGU's August 2015 commencement ceremony, held on August 15 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.</p> <p>Chris Cox earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Mike Peterson: So I'll just introduce myself real quick. My name is Mike Peterson, I'm a course mentor in the College of IT. And Chris honored me by asking me to give this speech alongside him today. I'm honored to be a part of Team Cox as you'll hear, as well as my wife, Angie, my daughter Brittany, who also has cerebral palsy, and our kids, and a fine team. So Chris wants to say a couple words.</p> <p>Chris Cox: Hi, Mom! WGU rocks!</p> <p>Mike Peterson: Hi, Mom. WGU rocks! [Applause] So I'll go on delivering the speech. This is completely Chris'. Please hear Chris as you read this, and he is here to support me as I emotionally get through this.</p> <p>This speech is dedicated to my family. Throughout my life I always have been challenged with schooling, and at first I didn't want to go to college. I thought it was too complex and I was bad at interacting with students and staff. I had doubts about being able to achieve what I wanted, but I also knew I didn't want to be that guy with a disability who sat around the house all day dreading "poor me" moments. I have cerebral palsy, but it only affected me with physical limitations. My mind is strong, and I wanted to achieve my full potential.</p> <p>In high school I researched many careers. At first I researched a position at Sea World, but try to imagine me swimming with a 200 ton whale. [Laughter] I don't think that would be possible. Next, I researched medical fields because all the career reports said I was going to work in that field. I watched medical shows without even flinching, but that didn't feel right either.</p> <p>I found my calling the last two years of my school when I discovered I had a hidden talent for IT after winning competitions at Skills USA. I now knew what I wanted to do: Use technology to help people. But enrolling at Western Governors University to earn my bachelor's degree in IT was a scary decision. I wasn't sure I would fit into this new realm of online education. Also, I knew my degree plan would consist of course work and certification tests that I needed to pass to graduate. I had never taken a certification test before. I had gotten close, but I was too afraid to complete the test.</p> <p>But then I met my mentor, John Porter, who says he likes to fly under the radar... flying under the radar now but who I believe should be famous. Meeting John was one of the greatest experiences I had ever had. I learned that he and I had some things in common. For example, he too faced down difficult odds and overcame physical difficulties, beating mouth cancer to a pulp shortly before I met him. He was in the process of retraining himself to speak, so we worked together on overcoming our verbal communication barriers, doing our regular calls via video chats so we could speak and type with each other at the same time.</p> <p>I've worked all my life to overcome the deterrents of doctors constantly telling me, "No, you're not able to do that because, well, you just can't." My mentor John knows the power of saying, "Yes, I can." And we shared the unique experience of having overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. As it says in the Bible, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."</p> <p>For the next two years, five months [Applause] for the next two years, five months, and 23 days to be exact, I progressed with John's help, and the help of the course mentors and so many other supportive faculty and staff at WGU that we became known as "Team Cox". There were times that I didn't think I had the strength to complete my degree even with a mentor's help. That is why I love WGU, they really helped me to overcome my weaknesses.</p> <p>As graduation came near, I started working on my capstone project, archiving sermons for my church. It was spurred by the need to expand their overall distribution of sermons. I really enjoyed working on it, and I received great compliments from the writing mentors on how it turned out. This is my last term, but it ended up being far from normal.</p> <p>One night I was called home to my family's ranch, and I discovered that my father had passed away. Although his death was sudden and painless, I miss him, even to this day. I couldn't mourn his death right away due to how busy I was, but my faith pulled me through this difficult time. The next day I spoke with my mentor which was very difficult for me. I wasn't sure I could keep going. But by the end of our chat, I knew I had to complete this because I was so close and I wanted to do it for my father, and for my family.</p> <p>It took a couple of weeks to get back on track to complete the task, and I was notified that my capstone project passed around Christmastime. All that stood between Christmas and graduation was Linux Plus. Two evil exams with 60 questions each, and a notoriously low completion rate.</p> <p>And I'll just step out of mode right now Chris wants everybody to know that he got his Linux Plus certification before his course mentor me. [Applause]</p> <p>And we're back. The odds of my passing that test seemed unrealistic to me, but I had the support of all of WGU. It took everyday meetings with a course mentor, Mike Peterson, to pull this off, and my mentor, John, pushed me to the limit. And I did it! With when I finished that last exam I called everyone in the testing center over to my computer. When the dreadful wait was over, and I received my passing score, the proctor and everyone else erupted. Team Cox yet again.</p> <p>Meanwhile, waiting at WGU with baited breath, all of my course mentors, program managers and John were panicking, waiting for a call from me. I called Mike to tell him that I graduated with my bachelor degree.</p> <p>Although my story is unique, I believe many of you may share similar experiences in your life. I thought that I would never be able to do this, but I was able to succeed with a lot of support from my friends and family. Because of my cerebral palsy it may take more time to accomplish certain tasks, but I never give up on my dreams or my desire to be treated just like everyone else.</p> <p>For myself and others with disabilities we try our best to succeed, and that's what matters the most. I would like to thank the faculty and staff, and Team Cox specifically for this amazing life achievement and the opportunity to speak on behalf of the students of WGU. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish my goal, and I would like all students everywhere to remember that you can accomplish whatever dream you set your mind and heart on.</p> <p>Of course there will be some hardships along the way, but all you have to do is believe that you are capable of doing great things and you'll triumph in the end. Congratulations class of 2015.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)