MORRISVILLE, NY — There’s a common theme that characterizes SUNY Morrisville graduate Natalia Clarke’s life and academic journey — “jump in with both feet.”
It’s the message the 2023 graduate gave to fellow students, parents, faculty, staff and friends in her commencement speech as outgoing president of the Student Government Organization (SGO).
“I want to encourage you all to jump into experiences with both feet! Embrace every opportunity that comes your way even if it seems daunting at first glance,” Clarke said. “Take risks because they can lead to growth and discovery.”
Clarke is among graduates who received their academic degrees during SUNY Morrisville’s commencement ceremony May 13. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“It’s a career that will allow me to help people,” she said, with goals in mind of working with juveniles or becoming a criminal investigator.
Cheering grads on were family, friends and proud faculty and staff. SUNY Morrisville President David Rogers was joined by school deans and members of the College Council in presiding over the ceremony, which began with the Syracuse Scottish Pipe Band leading graduates into the formal commencement exercises.
The stage was adorned with ferns and flowers grown by students in the college’s horticulture program.
Sunny skies heightened excitement for graduates, a class that not only endured a pandemic, but also grew and thrived from it.
“We overcame COVID-19 by adapting to new ways of learning and living. We jumped into the new learning experience with both feet despite the obstacles,” Clarke said. “We learned how to leverage technology to stay connected with our professors, classmates and loved ones. We realized the importance of self-discipline and self-motivation in achieving our goals amidst uncertainty, isolation and fear.”
Clarke grew up in Bronx, New York, the first of her family to go to college. Her sights were set on being a veterinarian until she participated in a mock criminal trial in middle school, which shifted her focus from helping animals to people.
SUNY Morrisville gave her an outlet to do so through classroom and lab experiences and an internship with the New York State University Police at Morrisville. She also immersed herself in activities, serving as SGO president and student representative to the College Senate, a member of the Campus Activities Board and Caribbean American Student Union, and as a Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program student.
In her parting words to fellow classmates, she urged them to make their mark.
“Remember that success is not measured by how much money you make or how many accolades you receive; it’s about making a positive impact on the world around you.”