Convocation 2008 – Address by Graduate, June 14

During each of the three days of convocation, one graduate addressed their fellow students and convocation guests, sharing their thoughts about graduation and the journey that brought them there.

On Saturday, June 14, the graduate address was given by Anna Fabbroni, of Ottawa, Ontario, who received her Bachelor of Health Administration degree.

The Voice thanks Anna for sharing the text of her address, which is printed below.

Madam Chairman, Mr. President, distinguished guests, members of the platform party, graduates, ladies and gentlemen,

I was honoured and speechless when I received a call from Mr. D?Arcy asking me to give the Graduate Address. First and foremost, I would like to thank Athabasca University for the opportunity to have allowed me to reach an important goal in my life and education.

My story may not be unique and can probably relate with many of my fellow graduates. We may come from different backgrounds but we all share a long and tedious journey which brings us to this stage today, proud of our accomplishments and knowing that our hard work has finally paid off.

I was born and raised in Toronto by parents who emigrated from a small town in Italy. I always enjoyed studying and perceived school as a place where I can expand my knowledge and allow myself to grow and understand the world around me.

However, when I was 15, my parents decided to move back to Italy and of course, I had no choice but to follow them. Although Italy was a lovely country, I had severe language barriers and no support systems were available to foreign students. High school teachers felt that it would be best that I drop out of school and go to work. As a teenager who invested all her future in education, I felt helpless.

It took 20 years and lots of hard work to understand that ignorance and intolerance were not a reason for abandoning a dream. I thank my dear friend Prof. Fiore Cianci for helping me work through my long and personal journey of analysis and re-discovering the concepts of identity, dignity, and home. Thank you Fiore for seeing, believing, and above all, making me believe in my potentials. You always said I would go far and you were right.

I began my university studies in Italy by taking a few French courses at Athabasca University, which is where I discovered the Health Administration Program. I called the university one day and asked to speak to the Director, Thomas Palakkamanil.

Thomas demonstrated kindness, availability, and professionalism. I chose the Health Administration Program because it offers an array of different courses. You never have the chance to get bored! But its uniqueness lays in the fact that it has two practicums, which allows students to gain an incredible hands-on experience in the health care field and as a result, have better opportunities in finding jobs in that sector.

When I returned to Canada four years ago, I completed both practicums with the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch at Health Canada in the Alberta Region. I thank everyone who worked and collaborated with me in completing the projects successfully. These practicums were an amazing learning experience as well as a milestone in helping me obtain a permanent position with Health Canada.

However, these fulfilling accomplishments would have never been possible without the help of the many great people I met during this extraordinary journey. Thank you Pam Patten for welcoming me into your home when I arrived in Edmonton with more hopes than suitcases, and for always providing an encouraging word when all my thoughts were a concentration of how to pay the bills and tuition fees, get through casual jobs, and study for exams. It makes today even more rewarding.

Many of we, Athabasca University graduates, were not only students. We are full-time workers and providers for our families with all the responsibilities that come with it. I think I can speak on behalf of all my fellow graduates when I say that, whereas for many of the people we know, the day was over when they came home from work, ours was not even half way through. Our perseverance and determination were the fuel which helped us find the strength, at nights and weekends, to sit in front of our computers and complete an assignment or prepare for an exam.

Athabasca University tutors have a profound understanding of the meaning of these hardships and for this reason, have often gone beyond their call of duty to help us. I remember scheduling odd tutor hours in Italy because of the time difference or my strange working hours. But what was most important is that I felt I was treated as a person with the right to learn and not just an ID number. I never felt rejected nor was I told that there was no hope for me.

Thank you, Athabasca University. With your wonderful tutors and staff, you have been such an integral part of our lives. You allowed us to understand that obtaining an education is possible regardless of the barriers, ignorance, and intolerance we may encounter. Education is a right and not a privilege and is worth every effort and commitment invested. Everyone has an equal opportunity to a second chance in life and this is why Athabasca University is so different from the rest.

Thank you to our families and friends, near and far, who were there to support us and encourage us to never give up during our long nights of studies, preparation for exams, and trying to balance time between home, work, and school. If we are here today, this is also because we have had such a strong backbone like you.

It was a lot of hard work but look at what we have accomplished and our profound sense of satisfaction. By walking this stage today, we prove to be examples that we have the ability of setting no boundaries as to what we are capable of doing when we truly believe in a dream and do everything, in our power and beyond, to make it come true.

Please join me in congratulating the graduates of 2008. Thank you.