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FLC Diversity Collaborative highlights the power of dreams
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FLC Diversity Collaborative highlights the power of dreams

Heleny Zacamolpa Vazquez spoke candidly about overcoming imposter syndrome and systemic barriers while addressing about 80 graduates and their families at the Diversity Collaborative Graduation Celebration. 

“This moment represents the accumulation of years of hard work, sacrifice, and determination, facing the speed bumps of academics and confronting a global pandemic. We have driven through it all with resilience, tenacity, and grit,” said Zacamolpa Vazquez. She graduated with degrees in Exercise Physiology and Public Health and Pre-Health and Medical Assistance certifications. At FLC, she was part of TRIO, el Centro de Muchos Colores, and the Springboard Fellowship. 

“Today, we celebrate not just the completion of our academic dreams but also the triumph of perseverance, resilience, and the power of dreams.”

The Collaborative’s graduation celebration is held to “come together as a community and to celebrate this milestone in their lives in a way that honors all of their identities, and that celebrates the community that they have built over their time at Fort Lewis College” said Heather Shotton, vice president for Diversity Affairs.

The Collaborative includes the Black Student Resource Center, El Centro de Muchos Colores, the Gender and Sexuality Center, and the Native American Center.

In her speech, Zacamolpa Vazquez talked about her family's journey to the United States over two decades ago and her parents' sacrifices to provide a better life for her.

“Thank you to all the families who had to risk their own lives for the sake of our futures. Mamá y papá, aunque llegamos sin nada, lograron darme todo. We arrived without anything, and you gave me everything,” she said. 

Rexine Williams, assistant director of the Native American Center, acknowledged the hard work of the Native American graduates.
“Your journey to this momentous occasion is a testament to your resilience and determination, and we are incredibly proud of each and every one of you,” she said.

“You all bring me so much pride as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and of the Fort Lewis community. You are wonderful, wonderful people, and I could not be prouder of you,” said Al Wolfe, assistant director of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center. “Whether or not you're receiving a stole today, know that your identity is valid. I hope you all can step back and feel as proud of yourselves as everyone around you does now.”

Gyana Gomar, assistant director of El Centro de Muchos Colores and the Black Student Resource Center, agreed.

"I'm so excited to see what comes next for all of you! I know your hearts are in the right place, and I know that you’re making an impact in the world.”

Jenni Trujillo, Dean of the School of Education, was the keynote speaker at the event.

“As I look around today, I feel so proud because of this cross-cultural tapestry we have at Fort Lewis!” said Trujillo, who, as an FLC student, worked to organize what is now El Centro and the Native American Center. “The stoles you will receive today signify something: We are here, we are visible. What an inclusive, beautiful tapestry!”

During the ceremony, soon-to-be graduates received the stole representing the center(s) with which they identify. They their stoles during the Spring Commencement Ceremony.

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