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WGU Graduate Speaker, Shari Davis, Winter 2009

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Shari Davis, Winter 2009
Western Governors University
<p>Shari Davis, a Las Vegas substitute teacher battling cerebral palsy, had three goals when she enrolled in online, nonprofit Western Governors University about 2 years ago: to finish her degree, have a classroom of her own, and improve her physical condition. When she walked to the podium to deliver her commencement address at WGUs Winter Commencement last month in Salt Lake City, Shari had met all three of those goals.</p> <p>Shari Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Congratulations fellow graduates. By completing our degree programs at WGU, we've demonstrated our belief in the importance of education. Though we've all faced many challenges along the way, ultimately none of us allowed any obstacles to block our path. We have arrived here today through perseverance and determination. Webster's dictionary defines perseverance as "continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition, or previous failure."</p> <p>I'm sure we've all had to overcome discouragement, opposition, or failure at various points in our lives. Personally, even though I've overcome many challenges in my own life, I didn't fully realize the importance of perseverance until I started substitute teaching while pursuing my degree in interdisciplinary studies.</p> <p>I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in the third grade, but I'd always allowed others to discourage me. Then about three years ago, a friend of mine who teaches second grade asked me to visit her classroom for a few days. After the experience I had in my friend's classroom, I finally decided to pursue my dream. Over the years, however, my health and mobility had declined considerably, so when I accepted a long-term substitute teaching assignment, I struggled.</p> <p>I was born with cerebral palsy, and as my mobility declined, my muscles throughout my body had atrophied. This caused severe pain my limbs, neck, and back. I was also having a tough time completing my competencies because the typing was so laborious. And every time I had to revise a task, I became more frustrated. I even seriously thought about quitting WGU because after giving every ounce of energy I had to my students in the classroom, I had nothing left to devote to my own education. </p> <p>I felt like my dreams were slipping through my fingers, and I was so ashamed that I couldn’t tell anyone that I was struggling and in pain. Then one night, my husband heard me crying when I thought he was asleep, and I decided to tell him everything. Together, we found a way through. We developed and implemented a nutrition and exercise plan to reverse my physical decline. To address my struggles with teaching and studying, I decided that I should ask my mentor and teacher friends for guidance. Their ideas and support really turned things around for me. I had no idea what a strong support system was already around me. </p> <p>As educators, we teach our students to ask for help. I just had to learn to do so myself. While pushing myself through the task for each competency unit of my WGU program, I also noticed several reoccurring themes that inspired me to continue. Those themes are achievement, motivation, goals, and dreams. I was learning to motivate my students to achieve their goals and dreams by doing their best and never giving up. I soon realized that I could not expect my students to always do their best if I wasn’t always doing mine. Then I thought with perseverance and determination, I could make my own personal dreams come true while inspiring my students to discover and pursue their dreams.</p> <p>I did my best to balance work, home, and school while attending WGU, and through it all, managed to complete my entire degree program in two years and one month. [Applause] And four days ago, I accepted a licensed teaching position as a fifth grade teacher. [Applause] I have also done my best to improve my physical condition and overall quality of life and will continue to do so. To date, I have lost 61 pounds and increased my mobility from barely walking around my house to walking over 1,200 feet without stopping, which is the length of four football fields, not including end zones. [Applause] And to now standing before all of you today.</p> <p>I have learned that with the support of friends and family, anything is possible if we want it and are willing to work hard enough for it. I'm reminded of a quote by author Robert Cooper who said, "There are two kinds of dreams. One is a dream that's always going to be just that, a dream. A vision that you can never really hold in your hand. Then there's a dream that's more than a dream. It's like a map, a map that you live by and follow for the rest of your days, knowing that someday, you're going to stand on the top of that mountain, holding everything you thought of right there in your hand."</p> <p>Earning my interdisciplinary studies degree at WGU in order to become a licensed elementary teacher has been incredibly valuable to my life. Through perseverance and determination, I am now standing on the top of this mountain, getting ready to climb the next one. Fellow graduates, as we leave the ceremony today, we should all be encouraged to follow our dreams and make them come true, regardless of the challenges we may encounter. Thank you, and congratulations.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)