Nimiye Awakan ’19 gives the presentation of the senior gift at Pitzer College’s 55th annual Commencement held on May 18, 2019.
Introduction by President Melvin L. Oliver: On behalf of the Senior Class Gift Committee, Nimiye Awakan is here to present the college with a gift. Nimiye is from Atlanta, Georgia, and is graduating today with a degree in organizational studies with an emphasis in marketing and political studies. Please join me in welcoming Nimiye Awakan to the stage.
Nimiye Awakan: Thank you, President Oliver. Good morning seniors, family, faculty and staff. Class of 2019, thank you all so much for electing me as your class president. I’m sure you’ll miss me sending my weekly emails and Facebook notifications.
Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” If there’s one thing our class has, its heart. We’ve shown how much heart we’ve had throughout our time at Pitzer. Many of us protested for Black Lives Matter freshman year, supported first-gen students sophomore year, and studied abroad junior year and are currently fighting for DACA students. It is this characteristic that has allowed us to support one another. It may be difficult to name what support for ourselves looks like, but we find it by supporting others. Shout out to the people who let me cut the pasta bar line in McConnell, shout out to Barbara Junisbai for relating to my Pisces energy. Personally, I found support through family (Oh going for life), friends (Nimbus is there), professors and mentors. Pitzer prides itself, similar to what President Oliver said, Pitzer prides itself on producing engaged, socially responsible world citizens through education emphasizing social justice, intercultural understanding and environmental sustainability.
Our class has exhibited just that. One of the ways we practice the values is with contributions to our class gift. This year, the senior class selected three important funds to highlight and invest in. The senior class gift serves to receive donations from current seniors and alumni to bolster these funds and, in a sense, pay it forward so current and future Pitzer students can access these funds. I wanted to share a little about each of these incredible funds to illustrate Pitzer’s core values.
The Pitzer Civil Rights Immigration Fund assists potentially vulnerable students with continuing access to a Pitzer college education with confidence and without impediment. This fund defrays the cost imposed on students by legislation that targets people based on their immigration status or are facing civil rights-related issues.
The Dean of Students Emergency Fund provides financial assistance to currently-enrolled Pitzer students who are unable to meet immediate essential expenses because of temporary hardship related to an unexpected emergency. A student who has used the fund said, “Knowing this fund offers support for trans students and helped with legal name changes and gender marker identity changes; it makes it easier to navigate. That’s very important in this state.” The emergency fund helps with food insecurity, emergency housing, transportation, access to medical prescriptions, off-campus counseling and more.
And lastly, Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault aids efforts to support survivors, create a campus environment that combats rape culture, fosters allyship for survivors of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence or hate crimes, and expands programming around those issues.
In this contentious social climate, we especially felt that these funds were inclusive and meaningful to represent the values of our class. There are many marginalized students on this campus who continue to be disenfranchised each day. Raising money may not seem like much, but we hope that it makes their lives a little easier. This year’s class gift funds have had a major impact on not only ourselves but for communities in need. I’m a first-generation college student and a child of immigrants from Nigeria. As an avid member of the Black Student Union, First Gen club and serving as your class president, I’ve seen firsthand how impactful these funds can be to a variety of students. These causes have been historically underfunded, which is why we saw fit to make a change.
Throughout our gift campaign, we showed the heart that’s always been a connecting factor within our class. The class gift campaign was our platform to continue to fight towards justice. I’m proud to say with a 62 percent participation rate, the senior class effectively raised $1973 for these funds. Class of 2019, this will forever be a part of our legacy. Additionally, senior parent participation was 29% and they raised $171,214 during this year. (Y’all got money.) We’ve been able to support our community and collectively help those in need.
Thank you to those who donated. Clap for yourselves! I urge you to continue giving to these funds to support members of the Pitzer community for years to come. Thank you.