Congratulations: Jonathan D. Waldo 2014 Class Speaker.

in Student Spotlight
May 22nd, 2014

Thank you Dean Hyman,

Good morning, and thank you for gathering here today to celebrate not only these graduates, but all of those who have supported us along the way. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have come today – our friends, our families, the faculty and staff of GMS – on behalf of the students.

They say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Here at GMS, it takes continuous family support, encouraging friends, multiple PhD and Masters-level professors, a finely tuned administrative infrastructure, scores of skillful and dedicated GMS staff, and a fully-equipped hospital to move that child from an inexperienced 20-something-year-old to a capable Mental Health Counselor. Together we are all part of a community built around providing healing and care to those who seek it. We would absolutely not be here without all of you, and today is as much a celebration of you all as it is of us the graduating class. Fellow graduates, lets give them all a hand.

Today we celebrate our achievement. We celebrate our dedication over the past two years to learning and to developing as professionals. We celebrate our growth not only as students, but as women and men. Tomorrow (well, let’s say Monday – give us a little break) is when we start giving back.

It has been an honor to be a part of this community of healing these past two years – and in reflecting on the nature of our field, I’ve recognized that when we invest our time into the lives of others we often gain insight into our own lives – our struggles, our hopes, and our strengths. With that in mind, as I prepared for this speech, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one individual I have worked with for the last 2 years. Getting to know this person has been one of the most transformative aspects of my time here, and I hope sharing with you what I learned about this person will be as inspirational to you as it has been to me. In the spirit of the mental health field, it is only fitting that I have prepared a formal case presentation (don’t worry, it’s abridged).

The Masters in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine student is in his or her middle 20s, is mostly female, and often presents with, depending on how late he or she awoke before class or internship, hurriedly-donned and rumpled dress. The student states his or her mood is “ meh, fine” when asked, but affect appears anxious, and occasionally overwhelmed. Mood appears to vary widely depending on environmental factors: the onset of final exams or recorded observation of his or her clinical skills seems to have been particularly triggering of these symptoms.  Judgment may be compromised, as evidenced by the student’s continued pursuit of a profession in which his or her responsibility, skill, or achievement will likely never be matched by the appropriate level of income. The student’s insight into his or her symptoms may also be impaired: despite the extent of presenting problems, he or she states, “I’m here so that I can help other people. I want to work with those who need it.”However, the student’s strengths are significant to note. He or she is intelligent and inquisitive, and seeks true understanding of those whom he or she meets. But beyond that he or she is also creative, not only willing, but able to try new ways of connecting with people, hearing what they need, and doing what they can to support them.

He or she is dedicated to those around them and incredibly loyal. I’ve seen the student try every possible means at his or her disposal to help someone. I’ve seen them come alongside struggling individuals and advocate that their voice be heard. And this loyalty is paired with a caring for others that is truly inspirational. What motivates them to take this path that causes them such anxiety and emotional drain, and possibly economic hardship, is their desire to provide healing and bring about wholeness in the lives of others.

Perhaps these qualities sound familiar. They should. They are qualities found in each person graduating here today.

When we first came to this program, I remember our professors told us that the thing that most makes us able to heal, the greatest tool that we have to bring healing to others is who we are. And I can say with confidence that as we wait now to walk across this stage and take our diplomas, we are who we need to be. I am honored to walk among you, and eager to work alongside you in the service of others.

I feel it is right to end with this excerpt from Maya Angelou’s On the Pulse of the Morning:

The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change. 

Our horizon beckons, and we are prepared.