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WGU Graduate Speaker, Valerie Velez-Hall, Summer 2012

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Valerie Velez-Hall, Summer 2012
Western Governors University
<p>Valerie Velez-Hall, of Taylorsville, Utah, earned her B.A. in Special Education from Western Governors University's online Teachers College. The first person in her family to earn a college degree, Valerie took an unorthodox path to higher education. After high school in her native New Jersey, she received a full scholarship to Rutgers University but opted instead to accept an invitation to travel with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a clown. Today, she works at an accelerated learning charter school, but has aspirations for a career in education to include administration positions like principal and superintendent. Her next step toward that goal: retuning to WGU to pursue her master's degree in teaching.</p> <p>Valerie shared her story as a graduate speaker at WGU's commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City on July 14, 2012.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is proud to present the greatest show on earth! Oh, no, the circus isn't in town, I was just kidding. But it was a great way to get attention. Wow. People perk right up there.</p> <p>Actually it also happened to be the announcement I would hear when I ran out from behind the red curtains and took my place in the center ring alongside my fellow clowns. Yes, my name is Valerie Velez Hall, and I was a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus clown. [Applause]</p> <p>And now I'm going to be a licensed teacher. Right? [Applause] Yeah, I know you're thinking not much of a change, I get it. But actually I did need a degree, go figure. And I didn't have one until now.</p> <p>Now let's go back a little bit further. Picture it. New Jersey, 1995. Thanks to those Golden Girls fans out there that laughed at that one. Yeah. This was the year I graduated high school and got a full scholarship to Rutgers University. The year that my family cried tears of joy because I would be the first person in our family to attend college. The year that I decided that I wasn't going to live in poverty two blocks away from the projects and on drugs or pregnant at 18 like unfortunately many of my friends were. This was the year that I was going to start my life.</p> <p>Well, after two semesters at Rutgers, and a bit of cajoling from a friend, I attended an audition at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This was for Ringling Brothers Clown College. I walked in and was completely intimidated. There were people juggling, and unicycling, and stilt walking and it was ridiculous how talented these people were. And I decided to stay. You know, I thought I'm not gonna make it. There's no way I have a chance, but what a great story to tell my future children.</p> <p>The real story actually turned out a little bit better than I imagined. I was selected to attend Clown College, and after all the sprains and bruises and cuts and sleepless nights and lots of pie throwing I actually received a contract to tour with the greatest show on earth. Walking away from a full ride at Rutgers was not an easy choice to make. But I knew my scholarship would be there when I went back, provided it was in the next five years. It wasn't.</p> <p>But, in those five years, I performed in 28 states, married my soulmate, moved to Utah, gave birth to three amazing children, and started an entertainment company, Utah Funny Girl Productions. [Applause] I was somewhat content with my life, but I also felt like there was something missing. It was like putting together a puzzle of my life and the last piece was nowhere to be found. I would try to shove in a random piece from another puzzle, like joining a club or bowling on a league, or playing tennis. And sure, if I stood back, it made the picture look complete, but looking closer, it wasn't quite right.</p> <p>It was at that point I realized it was my education. I knew that in order to completely fulfill my life and make my family proud, I would need to go back to school and finish the degree that I had started so many years ago.</p> <p>Now, I already went the traditional brick and mortar school route, I couldn't do that anymore. Actually I wasn't a traditional student anymore. I wasn't 18 and fresh out of high school. I was a 32 year old married, mother of three, who worked as a professional entertainer. Now when you make your living doing singing telegrams and doing school shows during the day, and DJ and perform as a clown on nights and weekends, you can't really go to a traditional school. I didn't have that luxury.</p> <p>Or, like a lot of you who work two, three jobs, or single parents, or heck, maybe you don't even like to go into a classroom full of strangers. There's anxiety attacks, I feel your pain. No judgments, no judgments, it's all good. Most of us are just non traditional students that needed that perfect fit to further our education and make our dreams come true. Some of your dreams are to become nurses, some business professionals. My dream was to be a teacher.</p> <p>I could've just kept entertaining, I mean I did make a decent living at it. But I made a choice to follow my dream. Yes, a choice. It was my choice to enter the education world. It was my choice to run away and join the circus. It was even my choice to run away from the circus and join Utah. [Laughter] Trust me that was a tough choice. And it was my choice to attend western Governors University, and what is choice it was. Oh, yeah, clap it up. WGU. [Applause]</p> <p>Get off the fence and make a choice. That's the best advice I can give all of you today. You've already made an intelligent choice by deciding to further your education, not to mention the tremendous choice you made by picking Western Governors University which is pretty amazing considering how many school choices are out there. Seriously, shop online, all these universities pop up. Oh, my goodness it's crazy.</p> <p>But it's great. Click on WGU people. Now you have a choice to decide where you go from here. You may not choose to tour 28 states, pop out three kids in three years, or become a special education teacher. But the choices you make will determine how your life's puzzle pieces fit together. And if you stand back, and you see that you're missing that one piece that completes your picture, choose to find it. Don't just sit there and say, "Well, close enough." Choose to be the best you that you can be. I chose the best me that I could be by bringing WGU into my life. I chose not to give up when juggling school, work, and family. Got a bit crazy.</p> <p>I chose to listen to my amazing mentor, Suzanne [Inaudible]. Whoo! [Applause] She would tell me, "Val, you can do it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel." And it was great to listen to her. I was so blessed to have her. And I chose to believe my husband, Andy, my mom, Irene, and my three amazingly wonderful children, Julia, Hailey, and Hunter when they told me, "Mom, you are amazing." Love you guys. [Applause]</p> <p>My daughter Hailey is amazing too because it's her 13th birthday today and she chose to be here and celebrate this because she anyhow how important it was to me. So happy birthday, Hailey. [Applause]</p> <p>And since I chose the non traditional education options at WGU, my puzzle is now complete. I hope yours is too. My last choice congratulations WGU, summer class of 2012.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)