Multicultural Student Graduation Celebration honors achievements of diverse students

3rd June 2022

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Never give up!

That was the message at this year’s Multicultural Student Graduation Celebration.

IU Trustee Jeremy Morris delivered the keynote, urging students to tap into their unique experience for inspiration, persistence and guidance.

“As students from diverse backgrounds, you may have an extra hill to climb, but that also provides you with a uniquely strong motivation, whether you are a first-generation scholar or belong to a disadvantaged or marginalized ethnicity: the necessary will to overcome and to follow your path, whether divinely inspired or self-authored,” Morris said. “That’s why it’s so important to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting, and never give up.”

That theme was carried over by the student speaker, Ericia Henry, who spoke of her transformation from fearful freshman to a senior graduating with a degree in business and a legacy of involvement in organizations and committees.

“We have persevered through some of the most difficult times in history and still managed to make it through,” Henry said. “It demonstrates that we are ready for any challenge this next chapter of our lives presents us with.”

Students were challenged to find their unique gifts. Photo by Hannah Heffley.

Jodie Spencer-Lethgo, President of the IU Alumni Kentuckiana Region board, shared a personal story from her own youth. Growing up as a Filipino-American and the only nonwhite Asian student in her class of 68 high school seniors, she felt like an outsider—until her uniqueness became a source of strength.

“I embraced the fact that my skin was a different color and found that I was proud to stand out among the crowd,” Spencer-Lethgo said. “To do so, I had to not only be confident and comfortable in my skin, but in what I put forth. I had to actively remind myself that I was uniquely gifted with talents that only I possessed.”

Spencer-Lethgo challenged the graduating students to find their unique gifts.

“Overcoming adversity is all about being resilient and turning those challenges into opportunities,” Lethgo said. “I challenge you to embrace your diversity and remind yourself daily that your unique gifts are talents only you possess.”

Graduating students wear their stoles in the final procession. Photo by Hannah Heffley.

The highlight of the celebration was the awarding of the stoles, designed by students as a statement of ethnic pride, with colors representing renewal, serenity, passion and multiculturalism.

“As this ceremony demonstrates, our campus is committed to promoting and supporting diversity in all its aspects and to building a foundation for a diverse community in this region,” said Acting Chancellor Kathy Girten. “We grow and evolve as a campus through seeing equality and representation as a goal and human right for everybody.”

Homepage photo: Ericia Henry. Photo by Hannah Heffley.

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