UF student speaker Paige Fitzpatrick’s speech for Saturday’s university wide ceremony

Paige Fitzpatrick will earn her master’s degree in education from the UF College of Education this weekend. She’s a recipient of the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship and plans to become an elementary school teacher and a school-wide reading coach. Her speech is below:

“We Are All Educators Now”

Good morning Class of 2019 and congratulations! The day that you have been working toward is finally here, and it is a day to be celebrated!

Most of you have waited for this day a long time … even longer than the line in midtown!

The 3 a.m. Library West study sessions … the group projects, where the work was always evenly divided … and where communication was never an issue … have all finally paid off!

Thank you President Fuchs and the University of Florida for allowing me the honor of speaking to you all on one of the most important days of our lives.

I was very nervous when I was first asked to speak. But then I remembered, even though most of you don’t teach 6-year-olds like I do, we do share something in common. With our UF degrees, we have the knowledge and wisdom to make the world a better place. In other words, we’re all educators now.

Today we are graduating from a top-8 public university, so it is only fitting that we talk about education.

The word education carries something different for each of us.  For some of us, it is a means to an end, a path to our career.

For others, it is a way into our lifelong dream… of being teachers, artists, or scientists.

For still others, it is a way out, of preconceived notions, poverty, of someone else’s’ ideas for you. Regardless, for everyone, may education always be a catalyst to move you forward.

As our guest speaker James Patterson has said, “The satisfaction in our lives revolves around who we are at the core.” Through your UF education, you are equipped with just what you need you to be who you are at the core.

To me, education brings joy, it is my passion, and it’s why I am standing before you today.

When I was in the first grade at Welleby Elementary, my teacher, Ms. Kelly, believed in me, and so for the first time, I began to believe in myself. She inspired me to never stop trying and never stop reading, even when it felt impossible. She guided me through the hard days and ultimately led me here.

That is why I do what I do, so that I can be that teacher for others. So others may one day get to sit in these seats, wearing a last-minute decorated motor board, graduating from a top-8 public university.

It’s my responsibility to teach the next generation that … unless you’re Tim Tebow! … a chomp is always right over left, and that “Go Gators” is always appropriate.

When I look at each of us, I see people who are using their education to be who they are. In each of you, I see innovators, activists, philanthropists, creators, and policy changers. Whatever our passion, we are working for and teaching the next generation.

We’re all educators now.

Each of us are taking what we love and bringing good to this world, showing everyone around just what it means to be a UF graduate and a part of the Gator Nation.

Even though our time at UF may be coming to an end, I challenge you to never stop learning … even if it means more group projects! 

In the wise words of Tim McGraw, when you get where you’re going, and you will get there, turn around and help the next one in line. That is how we move the Gator Nation forward and that is how we are all educators.

Class of 2019, congratulations and as always, keep Florida weird and Go Gators!

UF News May 3, 2019