There was a time when donning a cap and gown as a college graduate seemed like a dream out of reach for Samuel Peraza. As a first-generation American growing up for much of his life in a single-parent household, he faced many barriers. But it was his triumph through adversity that ultimately led Peraza to not only graduate from the University of Georgia but also to be honored as the Fall 2017 Commencement Student Speaker.
“My story, like each of yours, is comprised of trial and triumph,” said Peraza, a public relations graduate who also earned a Public Affairs Professional Certificate. “This is a culmination of years of hard work, and I celebrate and commend you equally for that accomplishment.”
Peraza gave an impassioned speech to the Class of 2017, urging fellow graduates to continue in the celebration of their personal journeys by practicing three things: basking in the ambiguity (the freedom that comes with choice afforded by college degrees), facing the future confidently and loving well.
“Our definition of success may change over time, but the one thing that will remain true is the power of a meaningful relationship,” he said.
Peraza’s speech came to a touching conclusion with a bilingual tribute to his mother, thanking her for the many sacrifices she’s made for him and his family.
“My hope is that one day I’ll be able to give you the life you deserve, because you have devoted your entire life to your children, our family and ultimately my education,” he said.
Watch Peraza’s speech in its entirety below.
Peraza plans to move to New York City and pursue a career in public relations.