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WGU Graduate Speaker, Lissete Rico, Winter 2015
WGU Graduate Speaker, Lissete Rico, Winter 2015
Western Governors University
<p>Lissete Rico, M.A. English Language Learning, Lehigh Acres, Florida, dropped out of high school because of violence but refused to become a statistic—and today, thanks to determination to fulfill her dreams, she is a teacher with a master’s degree and the knowledge that she can do whatever she sets out to do.</p> <p>Lissete Rico earned her Master of Arts, English Language Learning (PreK-12) degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Today, I graduate from Western Governors University with a master's degree in English language learning. However, statistically, I really should not be standing here. You see, this is my first time participating in any graduation ceremony. I was a high school dropout. I had to drop out of high school in my eleventh grade year because of the violence that was occurring at my school. And when it finally touched me personally, I felt I had enough. However, my goal was to prove that statistic wrong. I wanted to be an exception to the rule of a high school dropouts outcome in life.</p> <p>Growing up, I never knew the dangers of my neighborhood or even the lack of money or material possessions we had. My parents worked tirelessly to provide us with the most loving, safe, and nurturing environment any child could only dream of. In my mind, I always thought we were rich. That's how my parents made us feel, and although we were far from rich, we were rich with love.</p> <p>When I started school is when I realized the realities of the world and the sadness and anger that many children have because they did not have what I had, which is love. In elementary school, I was tirelessly bullied and oftentimes beat up, but when I got home, it's like it never even happened. I would come home to my loving family, and my troubles would disappear. I remember one evening talking to my mother about the children in school, and she reminded me that those children may not have love and happiness or someone to hug when they come home from school. "You do," she said. "Don't be angry with them. Feel sorry for them."</p> <p>Throughout the years, I knew I had always wanted to be a teacher but the kind of teacher that understands that even little children can have bad days, the kind of teacher that gives hugs and makes their students feel as if they are in their second home. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those children who grow up not knowing what love is but would have the opportunity to find it within the walls of my classroom and in the comfort of their teacher's arms.</p> <p>So in that year when I dropped out of high school, I was determined that I would not stop there. During that summer, I took my GED test and passed, and in what was supposed to be my twelfth grade year turned out to be my freshman year in college. It was an amazing feeling knowing that my dreams of having my own classroom were going to come true, but through it all, life happened, and I eventually stopped with just an associate's degree.</p> <p>I met my amazing husband, we married, and life was great. Until one afternoon on my drive back to work from my lunch break, I caught a glimpse of some teachers waving goodbye to their students on the school busses as it had been the last day of the school year. I literally had to stop my car, and I broke down crying. As I watched that scene, I felt defeated by that statistic, and I felt sad because I wanted to be one of those teachers waving goodbye to their students on the last day of school. I wanted to be that teacher that my students would never forget, and I wanted to make my parents proud.</p> <p>That was the breaking point for me. I thought, that's it. I am going to enroll myself in college again, and I'm going to finish what I started. I got back to work, and on my down time, I Googled teacher schools, and I came across WGU. It was completely online, and you only had to pay a one-time tuition per term, and in that tuition, you could squeeze in as many classes as you wanted without having to pay anything else out of pocket.</p> <p>I felt it was too good to be true, especially because I had already had a bad experience with another online university. But after talking to my husband about it, he said, "Go for it," and so I enrolled in WGU with the incredible feeling that my dreams were back on track, but I soon learned it was not going to be easy.</p> <p>During my bachelor's program with WGU, I gave birth to my first daughter, and when she turned one, I started my internship while seven and a half months pregnant with my second son. WGU was gracious enough to allow me to have a one-month term break in between my elementary education and special education internships. During that month break, I gave birth to my son, and five weeks later, I went right back to my internship. It was not easy.</p> <p>Believe me, having an exclusively breastfed newborn baby, a one year old, interning, studying for state exams, Taskstream assignments, and nightly feedings was not easy. It took lots of willpower, determination, and support, and I felt that support from WGU through student mentor at the time Shannon [Inaudible], my course mentors, who literally applauded me every single time I would log in with my webcam with the class for our cohort sessions with my newborn in hand and my one year old peeking in through the webcam. And of course, my amazing and supportive husband, who celebrated all of my little and big successes and encouraged me in my times of frustration.</p> <p>Sure, I was a walking zombie, but I was determined to finish what I started no matter the obstacles. WGU kept me in line and encouraged me every step of the way. I finally graduated with my bachelor's degree in special education and elementary education and quickly found a job teaching in the same EBD special education classroom. My experience growing up in a rough neighborhood and my mother's words of wisdom that not every child comes to a home filled with love helped me during this time, as I was teaching children who had been labeled as having emotional and behavioral disorders mainly from traumatic experiences and unloving upbringings.</p> <p>However, I did not stop there. Remember, I really wanted to be that exception to the GED statistic. So I decided to give it my all one more time and get my master's degree. I took the plunge of sleep deprivation, fulltime work, and being a mommy and wife head-on until graduation. Thanks to my amazing student mentor Chrissy Bennet, who every time I passed a course, she would send me an email with balloons or confetti and bold letters saying, "Yes, you did it," or short motivational videos that gave me the boost I needed to keep going when Taskstream was not my friend.</p> <p>My goal through it all though, after giving birth to my children, was always to be a mommy first. WGU made that possible for me. I did not want to take precious time away from my children by being in an enclosed classroom all because I wanted to make my dreams of becoming a teacher a reality. WGU's open 24-hours a day, and when my babies were asleep for the night, or at least until their next feeding, that's when I was hitting the books.</p> <p>WGU made it possible for me to achieve my educational dreams while being able to be a mommy and wife first, and I thank WGU for this gift. I thank Jehovah God, my amazing husband, my beautiful children, and my family for showing me what true love is. It is giving all that you have and all that you are without expecting anything in return.</p> And so I leave you with the words of my mother and father, who made me the person I am today, as you embark in your journey to find your place in this world. As my mother would say, "Everything you do, do with love because with love, we can move mountains," and as my father would say, "If you don't build your dream, someone is going to hire you to help build theirs." [Applause]</p> <p>So congratulations to the WGU class of 2015 for the completion of your dreams, and may your future dreams be bigger and brighter than you ever thought possible.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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