Commencement Remarks by Nicole Cornett Arnold ’11
Good Morning faculty, staff, family, friends and my fellow Class of 2011 graduates. I am honored to be here this morning speaking on behalf of my fellow graduates. As I was preparing this message, so many thoughts about my time here at Guilford ran through my mind. I remembered that first info session where I first heard “you can do it” and I wondered if that was true. I remember my first Student Government meeting and being excited that there was a place that I could serve and follow my passion to help people. I remember my first paper and “the millions” after where I finally realized what the statement “Guilford is a writing-intensive school” really meant.
On this journey we have all been challenged, we have all been pushed, we have all been encouraged, and we have all honestly become more … more of the people that I believe God called us to be. We strive for excellence, we live with integrity, we desire equality, and we celebrate diversity. Our Guilford is not just a college, it truly is a community that pulled together to get each of us to this day. We are forever indebted to this entire community because it has taught us what passion is and how we should not be afraid to seek it with purpose. Many of us have even realized on our journey here that we do not desire to make a name for ourselves but instead we truly desire to make a difference.
Most of my best memories of my time here at Guilford are not surrounded by what I have done but by the faces of all the friends God has blessed me with as we walked this journey together. In the beginning there were the parking lot kids that used to meet after our class ended at 10:10 so that we could remind each other that we could indeed “do it”. There were friends that became family, as close as “a Twin” that I served with on the Student Government and will hold in my heart for the rest of my life. There were fellow travelers on this journey like a “Little Frog” that I sat with and encouraged to keep dodging the obstacles. There were students that just needed a hug, someone to listen, or just a little reminder that they could do anything. Whether it was in the library, the classroom, or officially through the Friend to Friend Mentoring Program, info sessions or New Student Orientations I did my best to be there for them. There also were faculty, staff members, a president and deans that knew me by my first name and believed in me and encouraged me daily to follow my passion.
When I stepped down from the Student Government after two terms in office to help run a mentoring program called “Friend to Friend” I truly was not seeking a new activity or skill for my resume, I was just seeking to follow my passion, my calling to help people. I have been blessed to see God grow that program, see others spring off of it, and see hundreds of students helped in the last four years. I have had the privilege to pair mentors with mentees and see mentees become mentors. I have seen the little mentoring program become a big mentoring family. I have been blessed these past few years to stand cheering on those who have had this day before me and I know without a doubt that many of them stand back there in that crowd cheering me and you on as we graduate today. The mentoring family would not be possible without the desire to better our community and students and Alumni students that each semester volunteer to reach out their hand to help another. I am forever grateful to each of them and so are the people that their help has made such a difference to. Many of them will graduate with me today but I know they will be back to help the next generation and encourage them to make it through.
Speaking of making a difference, I and you both would be amiss if we did not at this point turn around and recognize just how many cheerleaders we had in our family and friends outside of these walls. They are as a much a part of this degree as we are. If your team outside of these walls is anything like mine they spent countless hours proofreading your papers, helping you study for exams, praying that you’d make it through this semester’s toughest class, showing you understanding when you had to miss an event to write yet another Guilford paper, and of course giving us constant encouragement telling us that they were proud of us and knew that we could and would do it. To each of them, I, on behalf of my classmates, thank you for your love and support and assure you that we know it is a major part of what got us here today.
As I prepare to close I have also come to realize one important truth that I must share with my classmates but that I feel they already know. That truth is that I am not, and you are not, the same as you were when you first walked on this campus. We are better not only for all the knowledge that we have gained, but also for the values that we have accepted and choose to live by. We are better because we leave today with the full Guilford community’s support behind us, as well as the support of our family and friends. We leave today headed into other communities that we can make better. We leave here today with lifetime friends that we have made on this journey. We leave today knowing that standing in this crowd behind us may be a student or someone that has always wondered if they could “do it” and to them we stand as an example that says “yes, you can.” We leave here today as the Guilford College’s graduating Class of 2011! Congratulations my friends, and may God bless all of the difference ahead that you can … and will … make!