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WGU Graduate Speaker, Karla Ortiz Flores

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Karla Ortiz Flores
Western Governors University
<p>September 15, 2018 WGU Regional Commencement at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. Karla Ortiz Flores earned her Master of Science, Management and Leadership degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: And now we have the privilege of hearing from two graduates. They are Jacqueline Becerra, from San Antonio, Texas, who is receiving her Master's in Nursing Leadership and Management. And Karla Ortiz Flores from Chicago, Illinois, who is receiving her Master's in Management and Leadership. </p> <p>Karla Ortiz Flores: So just a head's up, I'm Puerto Rican, so I talk with my hands. Someone might be catching a microphone here today, so, just letting you know. [Laughter] Just kidding, I'm short, I can't reach. [Laughter] </p> <p>I chose September's commencement because it marks a year after the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a very difficult time for me and my family. I remember trying to keep up with my coursework while refreshing [inaudible], which is a new site in Puerto Rico, at least every five minutes. Whenever I saw a notification of a river overflowing or a mudslide in the mountains, I would grab my phone, and once more, try to get ahold of my family. </p> <p>For three weeks I did not hear from them. And for three weeks I worked tirelessly through my organization, Catholic Extension, to respond to the humanitarian crisis that devastated my home. You see, I left my home ten years ago in the pursuit of opportunities for myself because my parents grew up in [inaudible], and they never had it. I was part of the thousands of young adults that continued to leave Puerto Rico in the pursuit of a better life. </p> <p>I was the only one from my family to leave, and let me tell you, it has been difficult. Everything that I've done I've had to build from scratch. Every day I remind myself of how despite the challenges and struggles I face, I've had the privilege of doing something that not many people that look like me have been able to do, and that is getting an education. Statistics say that only 15 percent of Hispanics are able to complete their college degree. I tell you this because for people like me, every day can seem like a series of unfortunate events. </p> <p>Many of us can't afford it. Or our families need us to help them put food on the table. Or perhaps we never thought that our dreams were valid because of where we came from. I spent many years measuring my worth because of my ethnicity. It wasn't until I heard a phrase from Father Jack Wahl, the president of Catholic Extension, when he said, "You are more than your circumstances," that I began to reclaim my hopes for a better future, not just for me, but for those at the margins of society. </p> <p>WGU has shown me the secret to success. Being committed to the belief that you can change anything in your life, regardless of how unattainable you may think that it is. I can safely say that throughout my degree, I gave my mentor Greg Nelson plenty of reasons as to why I didn't pick up that weekly call. [Laughter] One being falling off the grid for weeks because I had to go to Puerto Rico to distribute emergency funding, and it telecommunication towers were still not working. Or because I was trying to recover from 16 hour workdays where I was coordinating aid efforts for Puerto Rico while I was still waiting to hear from my family for the first time. Or the time that I had to drop everything that I was doing to go buy gallons of water and really anything that was battery operated, so I could ship it to my family. </p> <p>When I finally received an email from my mom saying, "Our home is destroyed, but we are alive," I felt like I could once again take a call from my mentor. Expecting to be yelled at, I hesitantly responded to my weekly call. And then it happened, I realized where WGU shines as an institution beyond its academic richness. My mentor told me, "It's okay, I believe in you, you will be okay. You have time to catch up." Granted, I had three days. But he was right. [Laughter] I did catch up. </p> <p>I learned that a mentor was not just a title of a person that called you every week to check on your progress, but it was an actual role. Amidst the darkness that my family faced throughout those seven months without electricity, WGU was a light. Reminding me that I've come too far to let anything get in the way, yes, including a hurricane. [Applause] </p> <p>My education at WGU has reshaped how I view leadership. I am better equipped to be an agent of positive change. And for someone who manages a national leadership initiative, that's important. WGU made learning actionable, and I feel like I have new tools to create a more profound impact. My graduate degree is the tangible evidence of my persistence, my determination, and my resilience. I am no longer defined by what I'm not. </p> <p>If you asked me what doors this degree has happened I would say too many to count. But right now my next step is to sit at the table because it's at the table where the decisions are being made. Decisions that can uplift, and empower communities that are in need of dedicated and committed leadership. So I'm grabbing my WGU diploma with one hand when I get it and bringing my own chair with the other, and I'm sitting down at that table. [Applause]</p> <p>I am opening doors to those that have been knocking, that need to hear "Que se se puede" that yes, it can be done. Those are the doors that matter to me. That's the WGU difference, and you're all part of it. Thank you. [Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
© 2018 Western Governors University – WGU. All Rights Reserved.
Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)