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WGU Graduate Speaker, Kimberly Lillywhite, Summer 2008
WGU Graduate Speaker, Kimberly Lillywhite, Summer 2008
Western Governors University
<p>Kimberly Lillywhite earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies degree. On July 19, 2008 Lillywhite was a graduate speaker at the Winter 2008 WGU Commencement. This WGU Commencement took place at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Kimberly Lillywhite: Good morning. I was asked to share with you a little bit of the journey that it took to get to this point today. I’m grateful and honored, also, to be standing here, it was a long road.</p> <p>The road that I traveled started a long time ago when I was a young person living in Texas. And it's taken a lot of twists and turns that at that time I didn't think would be in my path. I was encouraged by my parents to write down my goals and my dreams and aspirations for life and then map out the way that I would achieve them. I calculated the extent of my journey and I mapped out my plan very carefully. My goals were to be an elementary school teacher, a wife, and a mother. My goals were to be accomplished in that specific order. At this time when I graduated, my parents informed me, along with several of my elders, that my goals were admirable, but they would never be accomplished together.</p> <p>The day after I graduated from high school I left Texas to come to Utah on scholarship to another institution. I began my studies, and like most young people, found the social life and freedom that college brought was very empowering. I studied, I think, I went to class, I worked, and I dated. My grandma used to tell me I had to date a hundred frogs before I could find my prince, and I was out there to do that. [Laughter] I met a really great guy and decided that goals number one and two could be accomplished together, why not? Who couldn't have a 4.0 study buddy all the time?</p> <p>So our life changed slightly and I got married, and Justin and I continued our education. Rose colored glasses were soon removed by the reality of bills and obligations. While we both continued to go to school we also had to work and pay the bills. So we transferred to another in-state institution to attend school and we served as resident directors for a bunch of freshman in on-campus housing. That was an adventure. During this move I encountered what would be the first in a series of medical setbacks. I had to cut my schooling to part-time and later that year, to our surprise, we found out that we would be expecting our first child.</p> <p>Now I had to carefully look at my life's goals and if I really thought that I could accomplish them all. I decided to work on the goal of being a mom for a few years and put my goal to graduate from college on hold. It was an exciting and tremendous time. I loved being a mom and I loved playing with my kids. And I would play with anybody else who would loan me their kids. My friends would often say that I was crazy to give up on college, that I would have made a really great teacher. But I would just smile and tell them that I hadn't given up, that my road was just taking some twists and turn that I hadn't anticipated.</p> <p>After graduation for Justin we accepted his first teaching job -- because we all know that graduation is a "we" process -- we moved our family, and I joined the PTA, served on the community councils, volunteered in the classrooms, listened to kids read, played on the playgrounds, did anything I could to be involved. I hoped that someday that I would be the one who had my own classroom and would be able to finish.</p> <p>Over the next several years more medical roadblocks were put in our path as I received diagnosis requiring multiple surgeries and procedures. Diagnosis of cancer, auto immune disease, meningitis, and other barriers caused a partial eclipse to fall over my goals. But with the support of an amazing family, determination, and a positive attitude I was able to make steady progress towards recovery and accomplishing all of my goals.</p> <p>When our youngest daughter entered first grade I, like many others, graduated from the teachers college, began working in the public school system as a classified employing, meaning that you really weren't supposed to be saying you were teaching children. I love children and wanted to make a difference in their lives. Every day I went to work with the idea that to the world I was just one person, but to one child that day I was going to be the world. I was going to make a difference. After working in a Title One School and as the technology specialist, and the director of the extended day program for several years, I was encouraged by others and I decided it was time to finish. I enrolled in WGU and went to work.</p> <p>I was assigned WGU's most amazing, positive, terrific, and encouraging mentor available out there. We worked so well together, I would set my goals and my mentor would give me insight and we would work together to achieve my goals. I think when we first started my mentor thought my goals were a little lofty and I was going to be disappointed. But she never offered a negative word, she was always there for me even when it wasn't my turn on her schedule. Kim King is an incredible example of the mentoring program at WGU. Because of her assistance and the program I was able to accelerate and finish my teacher certification in six months.</p> <p>Sociologist Robert K. Merton is quoted as saying, "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Many giants have helped me reach this goal. Over the years my perspective of goals has sometimes dimmed and I began to be discouraged. These giants would then lifted me up and allowed me to stand on their shoulders so that I could view my goals on the horizon. Then my goals and dreams became achievable again.</p> <p>My giants include my parents who gave me my firm sense of direction in life and encouraged my independent spirit and drive. I have the most wonderful husband, Justin, who stood by my side and was my personal motivator and to keep going. He is amazingly optimistic and has helped me every step of the way to achieve this goal. Our four children, Justin, Joshua, Jacob, and Kenzie, I love them. They had to sacrifice so much for me to do this. They gave up their individual talk time at night, they forfeited camping trips, fishing trips, family outings, and they even had to make some of the meals themselves so I could read hundreds of pages a night and study. They even turned flashcards for me. They probably could have received a degree, too. [Laughter]</p> <p>My second mom who never gave up on me, she will always be one of God's angels on earth. My extended family members who rallied around our family, they have seen us through difficult times and are here to celebrate the positive ones with us as well. I had amazing educators who surrounded me from the Davis School District, and especially from Crestview Elementary, they offered insight and direction. And as you all know, you had friends or family that read paper after paper after paper after paper after paper, anxiously awaiting the grade as much as you did. [Laughter] I think they got to the point that they were secretly hoping that I was to the last task in Task Stream so they wouldn't have to listen to my theories any longer. I also thank the doctors and community members who offered encouragement, hope, and positive outlooks along this journey.</p> <p>A few years ago I would have told you that my life map had changed forever and that the goals I set as a youth would never be brought to fruition. But thanks to the grace of a loving Father in Heaven I have been able to get past the roadblocks and become the best wife, the funnest mom, and the happiest WGU graduate ever, it has just taken 18 years longer than I had originally anticipated.</p> <p>To my teaching career I am going to take with me the positive influences that the people from WGU and others have been on my throughout this experience. I'm going to help each child stand a little taller with self-confidence and determination. I am going to try to instill in each of them a love for lifelong learning and to be proud of whom they are and the goals and dreams they have for themselves.</p> <p>As we leave this graduation I hope each of us will take into our communities the life lessons so many have shared today and be part of the positive changed around us. I hope that you have many opportunities to support individuals who need giant shoulders to stand on so they can see a little farther, and maybe see on the horizon the fruition of their dreams. Ghandi stated, "Be part of the change you want to see in the world." Let today be the day that we embark on that journey for each one of us. Thank you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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