2021 Community Poem
The Community Poem, written, framed, and spoken by Professor Arroyo, was a compilation of the thoughts, experiences, and feelings provided by members of the Class of 2021 as they navigated their way as students during a global pandemic.
2021 Commencement Poem
Dear graduating seniors of the Class of 2021,
including residential students, commuter students to the residential college, and students in The American Women’s College,
Let us celebrate the multiple joyful meanings
of this momentous day, your graduation
from Bay Path University on Sunday, May 16, 2021.
I stand here before you representing so many
of your Bay Path professors, administrators and staff members
who have served as positive constants on your academic journey.
We see how you have hewn your individual paths
to arrive at this destination, your graduation.
We acknowledge your disappointment
about not having an in-person Commencement,
even when we made the painful decision
to protect you, protect us, protect our loved ones, immunocompromised,
protect those still not vaccinated, protect ourselves from those
who have COVID-19 without even knowing it.
Graduating seniors, let us cast aside that disappointment that cuts us.
Let us also remember that some among us
are also grieving the loss of a loved one during the pandemic
that some among us are still recovering from this virus.
Yes, in order to heal as a community of graduating seniors,
we must name the pain before we move on.
Here, I interweave the voices of seven seniors about the challenges of living through COVID-19:
I allowed my anxiety and depression to tear down the growth I've built up for myself as I begin to feel like an imposter after being accepted into graduate school.
I said goodbye to my grandmother in her final days battling cancer.
I felt robbed. No Citizens of the World trip to Portugal. No Women's Leadership Conference where I was so excited to hear Tyra Banks speak. No Bay Path Gala.
I accepted the reality that hugging my mom, who lives in Florida, is not going to happen anytime soon.
Both of my parents were hospitalized with COVID at the same time. My father passed away.
During COVID-19, I worked non-stop, went to college and dealt with the passing of my mother from breast cancer.
As a differently-abled student, I struggled to learn remotely during this pandemic.
Graduating seniors, you have known life-altering struggles.
Graduating seniors, you have also shown how you own your now, with resilience.
As you join us from your living rooms, your homes, your cars,
from wherever you are
standing, sitting, lying down in your graduation gowns,
let us embrace our joy.
Say it with me twice:
Let us embrace our joy.
Let us embrace our joy.
Nothing will diminish your joy today.
If anything, you will experience twin joys:
your virtual graduation today and
your second graduation after the pandemic.
Here, I interweave the joyful voices of seven seniors
who owned their now with resilience during the pandemic:
I wrote my first short story in 4 years for my creative writing class and it's going to be published in my professor's professional writing journal!
I mailed personalized "postcards of love" to my 21 kindergarten students.
I smiled through my pain, I smiled through my adversities, I smiled through depression, & I smiled through death. I just smiled!
I nurtured myself through exercise, forgiveness, and positive thinking.
I cooked meals and grocery shopped for those who couldn’t leave their homes.
At 54 I made it! I am graduating in my living room!!!!
And the last one: I gave myself grace.
Graduating seniors of 2021, including residential students, commuter students attending the residential college, and students in The American Women’s College,
Let us give ourselves grace.
Let us bask in today’s joy.
Let us celebrate you, Class of 2021
for this positively powerful achievement!
Despite the pandemic, you did it!
You achieved this!
-María Luisa Arroyo, M.F.A., M.A., A.B.D.
multilingual Boricua poet & intersectional feminist educator of color
Assistant Professor of Writing and First-Year Studies
School of Liberal Studies
Bay Path University
Longmeadow, MA 01106