Claudia, student orator, speaking at January Graduation 2019
Distinguished guests, ladies and
gentlemen, fellow graduates. I’d like to begin by saying congratulations to us.
The energy in this room is really filled with happiness, accomplishment and
excitement. I’d like to share with you a little bit of my story.
My name is Claudia. When I started my Masters programme I was a single mother of one and when I finished I was a mother of three. Now some of you might
think that I’m a little bit crazy to have continued with my studies having a
13 year old, a 5 month old and being pregnant. But despite the obvious
challenges which came with my particular set of circumstances, the desire to
succeed was greater and my education was a way forward – it was an opportunity to
accomplish more in life. Perseverance is something that we have all exercised and
it’s a skill that we’ve mastered. I came to London when I was five. I was born in
Columbia when violence was rife in the 80s and it was my mother’s perseverance
to see me and her family live in a country which could offer safety and a
better quality of life and that brought us here to London and I am thankful to have
achieved a Masters because of her sacrifice. It’s these acts of
perseverance which inspire people to believe that they can. At my
undergraduate ceremony I heard Bianca Jagger speak for the first time – she’s a
human rights activist – and everything that I had always wanted to do became
humanly possible. As I heard her tell her story, my focus moved from ‘I don’t even know where to start,
it’s impossible’ to ‘this is what I want to do’. Now, we’re in a position of privilege
and with every achievement comes a sense of responsibility and that’s exciting.
Our achievements are an opportunity to inspire others and for me that’s the
real and true definition of a role model. According to data from UNESCO there are
still 263 million children and youth out of school, with 15 million girls of
primary school age unlikely to ever set foot in school. My studies here at York
have amplified my understanding of education in a humanitarian context and
surprisingly education has still ranked amongst the most important needs
of children and youth suffering a humanitarian emergency. Quality education continues to be a solution to end poverty and child marriage. Girls with
eight years of education are four times less likely to marry as children. A girl
with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult. A child born to a
mother who can read and write is 50% more likely to survive past the age of
five. Educated mothers are twice as likely to send their children to school.
To conclude, I hope that through the course of my life I can inspire that
single mother that may doubt on her abilities to achieve more, to overcome
those barriers which can be so limiting. Your story, which is a compilation of
your gender, your ethnicity, your achievements, your personal circumstances
and more, can be that spark that somebody needs to feel that they too can make it. With the help of some of the world’s best lecturers, who for many of us did
more than teach, we are celebrating our achievement. I would like to personally
thank Professor Joe Rose and Janaka who encouraged us from day one of our
distance learning programme until our deadline to submit our dissertation, and
I know I am not alone when I say thank you to our professors, to our friends and
to our family who supported us and are here taking part of our very special day.
Thank you very much for your time and for listening to to my story, thank you.