Adams State University commencement spotlights first generation graduates

ALAMOSA — Like 43 percent of the graduates at Adams State University’s fall commencement ceremony, both of the day’s speakers were the first in their families to attend college. Both drew parallels from their experiences to share a message with the graduates. The university awarded 219 undergraduate degrees at the December 16 ceremony.

Student speaker Taylor Trujillo, who earned a bachelor of arts in theatre and graduated summa cum laude, compared the process of attending college to a theatrical production. The commencement address was given by the Honorable Pattie P. Swift, who shared with the graduates both the successes and disappointments she’s had on her professional path.

Addressing her fellow graduates, Trujillo said, “Change can be defined as becoming different. Change can be scary. Different can be scary. But who’s to say scary is bad? Adams State has become a second home to us. . . It can be scary to go out to something foreign to us. The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. At ASU, we were given a community to thrive in, and that community will be there for us always.”

A native of Del Norte, Trujillo completed her degree in three and one-half years, thanks to concurrent coursework she took in high school. Adams State scholarships helped her to graduate without debt. She talked about the growth brought by the college experience and said, “Think about where we will be in four or five years. It’s terrifying, but also exciting. I can’t wait to see what changes are in store for us now.”

She said the college application process was like a theatre audition, and study constituted rehearsals. “Now it’s time to tear down the set and move on to something new and exciting. All the world’s a stage. Step into your spotlight and take a bow.”

Judge Swift is well respected in the legal community. She has been chief judge for the 12th Judicial District and water judge for Water Division 3 since 2011. She was sworn in as a district judge in 2003. Swift was recently one of three nominees for an open position on the Colorado Supreme Court.

“It has been a great honor to be one of the finalists, even though the governor determined someone else was better for Colorado at this time,” she told the commencement audience as she related the successes, challenges, and lessons her career has brought.

“This story of my life points to something I think is important—while we are in the middle of living our stories—it is hard to see how they are going to come out. If you had told me, after I moved to Jaroso, Colorado, that I was going to be chief judge of the 12th Judicial District someday—I would have laughed. And yet, it was that very choice—moving to a small rural county—that gave me the opportunity to be a judge while in law school and to move forward to where I am now.” 

In the middle of her final year at University of New Mexico School of Law, she was selected as Costilla County judge.

Emphasizing the importance of voting and participating in jury duty, she told the graduates, “I challenge you to use what you have learned here at Adams State University not only to make a great story for yourself and to do well for yourself and your family in your chosen career, but also to contribute to the story of your community and your country by taking part in the important work of being good citizens. Whether you stay in the San Luis Valley or you go somewhere else, I urge you to participate in the public life of your community by becoming involved in your local government and in your local civic organizations.”

Caption: Student speaker Taylor Trujillo, right, shared graduation with her sister, Lauren. Both earned degrees in theatre and are the first in their family to earn a college degree./Photo courtesy of ASU