God’s bounty is all around us. We sometimes think of it as being sustenance or material possessions but in reality the plenty that truly sustains us comes in the form of the people who pass through our lives. If we have lived well and been willing to open our hearts He blesses us with family and friends who make us better for having known them. Lizette Coronado is one of those young women who slowly but surely burrows into people’s hearts.
Lizette is small and delicate looking, almost like an elegant porcelain doll but beneath that exterior is a warrior, someone willing to fight for herself and the people that she loves. Like all of us Lizette is sometimes afraid such as when she first left the comfort and familiarity of her home and her friends to attend Trinity University. She is quiet and shy by nature. Grappling with new situations is not easy for her but she possesses a kind of strength and courage that propels her forward even when she is uncomfortable. Thus it was when she first arrived at Trinity. In her own words it was a “scary’ time, one that she would both like to forget but also remembers with a touch of pride. Just as she says, “It is no secret that “scary” does not have to be a tiger chasing you in the jungle; “scary” can be spending the night in a dorm room in an unknown city with unknown people. Scary can be getting lower grades than you’ve ever seen before. Scary can be wanting to give up before really starting but knowing that doing so is not a option. Scary can be setting your fears aside and pushing yourself just because it is the right thing to do. Scary is what everything about college was for me in the beginning!”
Lizette possesses a fierce determination that propelled her forward in spite of her initial difficulties. She focused on her goals and with a profound determination she stayed at Trinity University even when her fright and flight instincts urged her to run. She immersed herself in the classes and the traditions and pushed herself one day at a time until she had completed all of the coursework needed to earn a degree in neuroscience. As she reflected on her journey she was justly proud, so much so that she wanted to push herself just a tiny bit more and so she decided to try out for the role of student commencement speaker. It was not a task that came naturally to her but one that she understood she needed to undertake as one last reminder that she is capable of overcoming even the scariest aspects of life.
Lizette wrote a lovely speech, rehearsed it and then went to the try outs feeling perhaps a bit nervous but also knowing that she is truly capable of facing down the anxieties that taunt each and every one of us. She had the unfortunate luck of competing with a young lady whose major had been theater and public speaking. It was difficult to overcome the polish and poise of her well trained rival who ultimately won the coveted commencement role. Even though Lizette was not chosen she had tried and both she and I felt justly proud of her willingness to travel so far outside of her comfort zone. Just attempting to do something that made her afraid was yet one more sign of her determination to be the best possible person.
I particularly loved the conclusion of Lizette’s speech. I wish that everyone might have heard it because its message was powerful, “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I think we tend to forget that we are not on this path alone. We humans are after all more alike than we are different. This fact was made abundantly clear to me when I was in Dr. Tyne’s Freshman seminar class. I remember discussing the research of social psychologist Dr. Amy Cuddy. Dr. Cuddy did a study showing that whether people are born sighted or they are congenitally blind they all instinctively celebrate their pride in being winners by raising their arms in a V and lifting their chins with their heads held high. This seems to be an innate behavior for people whether they are from New York or from an isolated jungle. We all seem to understand this expression of joy in a job well done, happiness in our achievements. You, the person next to you, and the person in front of you understand this universal symbol, especially on a day like today. We, the graduates are right now feeling this sense of pride and power. So please, Class of 2015, stand with me, raise your arms in a victorious V, lift your chin, hold your head high! We did it! We all won!”
It is little wonder that on this past Saturday so many of Lizette’s family members, teachers, and friends traveled two hundred miles in the early morning hours just to celebrate her victory. She had done what had once seemed impossible. She had faced down all of the scary things that attempted to dissuade her from earning a diploma in a difficult major from a prestigious and rigorous university. Along the way she had never forgotten who she was nor the people who had helped her to achieve her goal. In fact had she spoken to her classmates she would have urged them to remember to always be grateful to the many people who had contributed to their achievements. “I’d like you all to mentally look around the room. Picture your roommates, your professors, your friends, and your family. When our ceremony is done, please go up to these individuals without whom you would not be here today. While you may see the journey to and through college as a one-man endeavor, it would have not have been the grand journey that it was without the support of these people that surround you today. Thank your roommates who stayed by your side even though you sang off-key in your shower every morning . (I’m sorry Victoria.) Thank your professors who took time out of their busy schedules to make room for extra office hours. Thank your family members who never gave up on you, people like my dad who recently said to me in his choppy English , “ You know when you didn’t think you could make it, your mom and I, we knew you would!” Please, give a hand to those supporting and loving guests in our audience who “knew we would”
Perhaps Lizette’s parents sensed from the very beginning what an exceptional child they had. Her very name means “God’s bounty.” She has been blessed with so many talents, extraordinary beauty, and most of all an open and loving heart. Still she is humble about her extraordinary gifts. She is a quiet but powerful presence in the lives of all of us who have been fortunate enough to know her. We all believe that we have only seen a fraction of the talents of this remarkably deep young lady. She has already touched so many and her journey has barely begun. Keep your eye on Lizette Coronado. Remember her name. She is someone who will change the world around her.