Hello Everyone,

My Name is Colton West.

I’m honored to be here in front of all of you today.

I want to take a moment to thank the faculty and staff in the School of Cultural and Social transformation, who have made our success and graduation possible. Thank you!

I would like to congratulate all of you for being here today and for all the hard work you have done to get to this point!

I also want to give a special thanks to my mom and grandparents who have sacrificed so much to get me here!

Today, I want to talk to you about failure.

Allow me to begin with how my college journey started.

My college journey began with the submission of my applications to college. I was hopeful to be the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, and I hoped to get there with an athletic scholarship. I was not a strong candidate academically speaking, because I had devoted all of my time and effort in high school to athletics, in the hope that I would receive an athletic scholarship. I quickly found myself at the end of my senior year, with no athletic scholarship offer. To make things worse, I had just opened the envelope from the U that said I was not accepted. I felt as if I had failed in almost every aspect of my life. For a brief time, I let myself believe I was not college material, and I told myself college was no longer an option. I wanted to give up.

But In the back of my mind, there was an unrelenting discontent with the idea that I was throwing away everything my grandparents and parents had worked so hard for. I remember telling myself, “don’t give up, there has to be another way”. I sought out other path’s to pursue, in the hope that I could still get accepted at the U, and this is when I found the Diversity Scholars Program.

I met with Rudy [Medina] at the Diversity Scholars Program and we were able to appeal the rejection. I found myself blessed with a second chance and a new beginning to attend the U of U. A new door opened before me. One where I could pursue my dream of working as a health care provider. This was the beginning of my college career.

I soon found myself navigating the U, and on my first day of class I was sitting on a bench just outside the old OSH building, thinking and waiting for someone to say “what are you doing here?”, but because of the Diversity Scholars, I had made friends, engaged in a community, and was reassured that I would succeed. It was then that I realized I belonged and had nothing to fear. Since I was given a second chance I told myself I was going to put all of my efforts into my studies and I was not going to give up.

My freshman year progressed, and I decided to major in nursing and consider medical school in the future. I always wanted to work as a health care professional. When I was just a child I would watch my family navigate in and out of the hospital, and I constantly saw them go through so much pain. Pain that I could do nothing about. I wanted to be the one to help them, but I never could. My knowledge was too limited, and I could not understand what was occurring from a medical and physiological standpoint. All I knew was I wanted to be the one to understand and to help my family and others in similar situations. With the second chance, I had been given I felt that this was something that was finally within my grasp. During the Diversity Scholars Program and my first ethnic studies class, I became intrigued and inspired. So much so, that I decided to minor in Ethnic Studies.

After my freshman year of college, I completed the Diversity Scholars Program and began my sophomore year of college. This was about the time where my grandmother was hospitalized and underwent a series of serious and complex surgeries. It was not until I spent the night on a wooden chair in her hospital room that I realized what was she was experiencing in regards to her health care treatment. I was astonished to hear the nurse using not only microaggressions but she was outright ignoring my grandmother. At that moment I realized the gravity, and how crucial ethnic and gender studies are to health care treatment.

I began deconstructing all the health care treatments that my family had previously gone through. Because of Ethnic Studies, I was able to recognize the discriminations and disparities within their health care treatment. I realized that Ethnic Studies was something I needed to be an expert in if I was ever going to incorporate cultural and linguistic appropriate responses to provide holistic health care treatment.

I changed my major to Ethnic Studies and decided to delay nursing until I completed my Ethnic Studies degree.

After I changed my major, I took another class with my professor
and mentor Dr.Fukushima. This was the class where I was able to become a part of the Undergraduate Research Program and was granted the opportunity to conduct my own research on The Latina’s Health Care Experience in Utah. Conducting this research provided an understanding of how race and gender intersect and impact one’s health care treatment and experience. This study also solidified my desire to work as a health care provider.

Despite all my failures, here I am today, succeeding in something I once thought impossible. It feels like my whole life has changed in just a few years. It is difficult to express in words, just how happy I was that I failed at something. The Diversity Scholars gave me a chance and a reason to never give up.

My advice to you all is: remember the friends and family that helped you through the hard times, I hope that you all remember to eat with those that you starved with. And do not be afraid of what comes next, because, with an Ethnic or Gender Studies degree, your options are wide open!

So, Class of 2019 as long as you never give up, I encourage you all to get out there and fail! Because the opportunities that will arise after may surprise you!

Congratulations Class of 2019!