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UVU’s 2019 graduates encouraged to be proud Wolverines

May 3, 2019

Utah Valley University students should no longer say that they “just” go to UVU, Marc Reynolds, the president of the UVU Student Association, told the sea of black caps and gowns gathered Thursday in the UCCU Center.

“Our students are green, our students are proud Wolverines,” Reynolds said. “Let us be ourselves, be unapologetically us, and embrace the model that green means go, because there is nothing stopping a Wolverine.”

Thursday evening’s commencement ceremony at UVU celebrated approximately 6,000 graduates who will receive about 6,500 degrees and certificates.

Besides green being his favorite color, Reynolds said it is a color that represents growth, and he encouraged students to not hold themselves back from what he knows they are capable of.

“We should look forward to the future with excitement, even for the obstacles waiting for us, because we are Wolverines and that’s what we do,” Reynolds said.

The ceremony included a commencement address by Deondra Brown, of the sibling piano ensemble The 5 Browns, along with a musical performance by the group.

The siblings rose to fame after the show “60 Minutes” did a segment on them titled “The American Dream,” but Brown said the family knew there was more to the story. Their father had sexually abused the Brown sisters, who are now advocates for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Brown said the siblings were on tour in 2008 when their managers abandoned them with stacks of concert contracts and the keys to a rental van.

She said the group could have ended, but instead picked up the papers and taught themselves how to understand contracts, make music videos and code websites.

“I never expected to find myself at the Utah Capitol, much less the U.S. Capitol, working to change current laws that limit victims’ avenues to obtaining justice, but this instance on tour in 2008 was likely intended as a power move to prove our dependence,” Brown said.

“In the end, it only proved the opposite. It proved we were not about to give up and could thrive even within the most discouraging chaos.”

She said each graduate knows about labor and success, and can use their education to build a meaningful, important life.

“You can make your own space and find a path that is individual to you, even when it seems impossible or when others tell you there is no room for you,” Brown said.

She encouraged the graduates to use their education to make the world better.

“If you allow it, the help you receive from the heroes in your life can eventually be the help you give in an endless web of human kindness that stretches out in every direction,” Brown said.

“This is not hyperbole. One educated person really can change lives, minds and destinies. Six thousand dedicated UVU graduates can change the world.”

UVU President Astrid Tuminez echoed that message in her first commencement address since becoming president in the fall.

“The quest for success becomes meaningful only when we understand that it has to be about something that is larger than ourselves,” Tuminez said.

She told the graduates that as animals, wolverines are known for their ferocity and strength, which is out of proportion for its size. But while the animal is solitary, UVU Wolverines are not.

“Because you are a Wolverine, you can celebrate your strengths and triumphs while remembering the village that got you there tonight,” Tuminez said.

She encouraged the students to remember integrity and compassion, to get up when they fall, and to strengthen their support systems.

“Be honest, be ambitious, but do not prey on those who are ignorant, needy, weak or desperate,” Tuminez said.

Convocation ceremonies, where students have their names called and walk across a stage, will take place across the university Friday.