Sylvia Duzaryan sure knows how to make an entrance. Last month when she met with commencement organizers to audition to be one of two student speakers at the UCLA College graduation ceremony, she was wearing a floor-length strapless gown.
That day, the communication studies major from Granada Hills had been a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding. She slipped away from the festivities to rush to Westwood to make her audition on time and then hurried straight back to rejoin the bridal party.
She was en route to the reception when she learned that she’d been selected. “We started celebrating in the limo, and I called my mom right away to tell her the news,” said Duzaryan. “It was definitely one of the best moments and days of my life — for more reasons than one.”
Duzaryan, who will speak at the 7 p.m. ceremony in Pauley Pavilion on June 13, came to UCLA as a transfer student from the College of the Canyons in 2012. For her, there was nothing more important than ending her academic career here by showing her appreciation for being a member of the Bruin family and for the family who helped her get here.
“As a first-generation college student, I owe a great debt to my parents and grandparents for all of their sacrifices and hardships,” said Duzaryan, who has accepted a full-time management position with a major retailer beginning this fall and has plans to eventually pursue a master's degree in business administration and marketing. “The reason they emigrated from Armenia to America was so that my generation would have all the opportunities they did not have. Giving this speech is in part my way of letting them know that the hardships and sacrifices they faced were not in vain and a way for me to thank them for all they have done.”
She intends to advise her fellow graduates that they should never settle in life or be afraid to dream big. “Graduating from UCLA is such a huge accomplishment, and I hope that it will be a reminder to my fellow graduates that, through hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.”
In choosing the commencement speakers for the UCLA College, Jessica Trumble, a fourth-year English major and one of two students on the seven-member selection committee, was looking for students whose speeches would resonate not only with the graduating class, but with their families and friends in attendance. “I am excited about the stories our speakers will share with all those who attend the commencement ceremonies, and I believe that their accomplishments are emblematic of the successes of our class as a whole.”
The successes experienced and witnessed by the class of 2014 during their short time here will be at the heart of Andrew Ho’s speech. Among them are groundbreaking medical advances, notable acts of community service and athletic highs such as UCLA earning its 111th NCAA championship and two victories on the gridiron over the university’s cross-town rivals.
“The best thing about our accomplishments is that we achieved them together here at UCLA,” said Ho, a biology major from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, who will be attending the ceremony with his parents, sisters and pre-school principal. “The experiences we've shared will forever tie us together as Bruin family, no matter how far away from each other we end up being.”
Ho has experienced a number of personal successes as a Bruin. Not only has he learned a lot about himself, embraced change and expanded his worldview, but he has also challenged himself to try new things and think more about what he can do to better the world.
“It took a few years of experiencing UCLA's diversity and wealth of opportunity to really broaden my perception of the world, and consequently, measures of both success and career objectives. Because of this, I graduate from this university feeling enriched, having learned tremendous lessons from my peers, faculty members and the overall institution,” said Ho, who aspires to work in the field of children's health or global diseases for several years before applying to a master's in public health program.
Ho was heavily involved with campus life as president of the Pediatric AIDS Coalition for two years during which he helped educate thousands of students about the disease and raised more than $1.16 million for the cause through Dance Marathon.
“My experience at UCLA has been truly life-changing,” he said, “and I want to share a little glimpse into the crazy amounts of work, laughter, tears, stress and happiness that have led up to this one moment where we turn our tassels and become UCLA graduates.”