You are here

WGU Graduate Speaker, Julie Young

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>
WGU Graduate Speaker, Julie Young
Western Governors University
<p>WGU graduate Julie Young spoke at the WGU Bachelor's Commencement Ceremony in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.</p> <p>Julie Young earned her Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.</p> <p>Written version of speech from Julie Young:</p> <p>I’m going to share something today that probably goes against everything you’ve heard during a commencement speech. Are you ready? Determination and perseverance alone are not always enough to be successful. </p> <p>When I started at WGU, I was ready to conquer the world. It was me, my webcam and my WGU mug! I was going to be a teacher, and nothing would stop me. I believed that my sheer Italian stubbornness and will power would be the key to my success. That was until I had my first math class, Foundations of College Math. My boundless joy quickly turned into bouts of ugly crying.</p> <p>Halfway through my program I decided to change my major from Interdisciplinary Studies to Special Education. I was working as a para-educator in a classroom of students with severe disabilities, and I grew to love these kids. I knew then that Special Education was my calling.</p> <p>Last spring, I came down with a viral infection and a severe case of vertigo. It seemed like a typical cold and ear infection, but it was anything but typical. Suddenly, I woke up permanently deaf in my right ear. One day I was a student teacher whose passion was helping students with disabilities. The next day I was a student with a disability. That was not part of my plan.</p> <p>The infection also caused tinnitus, which is a constant, high-pitched ringing in my ears. Noisy environments, such as classrooms, went from being my happy places to confusing and disorienting. How would I be able to teach if I couldn’t hear the kids? Should I quit?</p> <p>I went to 4 doctors, and they offered few answers and no cures. When I faced the reality that my hearing loss was permanent I fought to get a hearing device. I was turned down by my insurance and by Vocational Rehab. I soon realized that my Italian stubbornness and determination were not going to be enough. I needed an advocate. I swallowed my pride and reached out to the principal of the middle school where I was student teaching. He wrote a letter to Vocational Rehab about my need for an assistive device. The teacher whose classroom I was student teaching in did the same. Because of those letters, Vocational Rehab reversed its decision, deemed me significantly disabled and approved a hearing device. My host teachers accommodated me and became my ears. They helped the students understand and work with my hearing loss. My WGU mentor, Sydney Rombola, and my husband and sons also rallied behind me. Because of this overwhelming support, I knew I would make it. </p> <p>The truth is we all need advocates, mentors and champions if we’re going to succeed. I couldn’t will myself to hear again just as I cannot be an effective teacher without help. The special education students I will teach someday will need me to advocate for them, walk beside them, remove barriers to their success and provide them with the support they need to reach their goals. </p> <p>I’d like to share some statistics with you. According to state records, nearly 40 percent of new teachers here in Florida quit teaching within five years due to burnout. According to a 2015 federal study, 92 percent of first-year teachers who were assigned a mentor returned to their classrooms. </p> <p>What does this mean to every graduate here tonight? Mentors and advocates make a huge difference! Graduates, if there’s one thing I want you to remember tonight, it’s this: Fearlessly seek out a mentor. Or two. Or several. Pursue someone who is an expert in their field, is positive and will encourage you and help you succeed as you begin your new journey. Tonight is not the end of our learning, it is just the beginning. Find your champion. All you have to do is ask. </p> <p>Graduates, who believed in you before you believed in yourself? If you’re here today because someone mentored you or advocated for you, will you please stand up? Let’s give the champions in our lives a much deserved round of applause.</p> <p>Thank you.</p>
Western Governors University
© 2018 Western Governors University – WGU. All Rights Reserved.
Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)