Stankus, an Eckardt Scholar pursuing both a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in English, invited her fellow students to reflect on how they got to where they are today.
“Our goals have changed,” she said. “Our perspectives of the world have widened and shifted. We have new levels of knowledge and understanding. We have pinpointed what our interests are and have taken hold of them, poring over those subjects and concepts for hours at the libraries and in our dorms. We’re older, we’re wiser, we’re tireder, maybe even a little bit more broken down, but we’re stronger. We’re like steel that has been forged in the fires of four o’clock exams and calendars full of extracurricular activities.”
Stankus reminded students to remember who they are at this moment—and that they’re more than just their academic achievements.
“We’ve done so much work to get here, to maintain the right GPA to get into this room, but that’s not all we have done,” she said. “We’ve met new people and tried new things. We’ve unlocked desires and dreams that maybe we didn’t even know we had. Right now we are all capable of achieving amazing things. Lehigh has given us the tools to expand our knowledge, and we’ve taken hold of them and used them. Right here, right now, we are full of dreams and hopes, some that are more grounded in the reality of the ‘adult world,’ some still more lofty and verging on the brink of the improbable and the impossible. Don’t let this go when you graduate. New lessons and experiences will be a part of the post-college life just as much as they are the college life, if you are open to them.”
Stankus shared about the pressure she put upon herself during her first year at Lehigh, a “compulsive drive to spend every minute outside of [extracurricular] activities studying and reading my textbooks.” She spent that first year trying to copy others without focusing on what she wanted, she said.
“My main goal in life was, and still is, to help people, and at the end of freshman year I finally realized that there is more than one way to accomplish this and that I didn’t strictly have to follow just what my immediate circle of friends was doing. Any area of study you choose, so long as it has been chosen because you care about it, can be used for the benefit of others,” she said. “... The main things that got me through freshman year and that have gotten me through the rest of college are the communities I am a part of. At the end of the day, we can get all the right answers we want, but without love for others and love from others, it doesn’t matter.
“If your goal is to help people, you have to know people. College hasn’t been just about the grades we’ve gotten. It’s late-night hangouts and walking through the South Side and sitting at the Lookout Point above Dravo with our friends. Life is about solving problems, but it’s also about the connections we form with others. That’s what Lehigh has taught me, and I hope that’s what it’s taught all of you.”