The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Guest Column: Letter to Graduating Class of 2024

Priya Katwala at an orientation event. Photo submitted by Priya Catwalk.

Dear graduating class of 2024 and all who were graduates in 2020, congratulations on your accomplishments today and the last four years. We started this during the most unprecedented times and have come through on the other side. 

I am graduating today with my bachelor’s in Health Sciences and minor in Aging Studies and will continue through the PT Program as I get my doctorate in the coming years. As a student ambassador, incoming students ask me why I came to Utica. Utica checked off many of the attributes on my college list. A direct entry into the Physical Therapy program, the cross country and track and field programs and financial affordability made Utica the right choice for me. I came to appreciate the uniqueness of this place. Utica feels like home. 

Here I channeled my love from my high school to Utica. 

My high school English teacher Mrs. Latko wrote to me during COVID, “You are such an influential figure in this graduating class, Priya! Your spirit and sense of love of life is infectious.” 

I took the energy I had in a place of people that I was fond of as I called it my second home and made the next place Utica, a new place to grow roots and blossom. There is so much we learn not just in the classroom but during all parts and phases of our college journey: communication, public speaking, making new friends, how to be an active listener, figuring out who is there for you when you are at your worst, who is an active listener and who is genuine. We joined clubs, made a difference in our community, learned to work together, dealt with roommate fiascos, learned to stand up for ourselves, fell in love, faced adversity, rose to the occasion, dealt with grief and loss. 

Expect the unexpected, my mother says. You don’t know what will be thrown at you at any given moment. Appreciate where you are, what you have experienced, and what you have faced. Because it has brought you to NOW. It’s not so much how you react but how you respond to any given situation. And remember you can only control what you do and not how others will act.

I used my work ethic to guide my academics. I used my love of running to be part of a team. I used my passion and pride in making TikTok videos Utica’s Admissions page. I wanted to show others that this place is special, a place that can feel like home, a place where you can connect and belong. I hope you have discovered a little bit of what you were looking for during these last four years. 

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can,” Frida Kahlo said. Remember we are on the other side of 2020.

I want to thank all my teachers and faculty from grade school to high school, coaches, my teammates, my study buddies, classmates, my professors throughout my years here at Utica. All of these individuals and communities have enabled me to learn, grow, and develop into the person that I am. 

“When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person that walked in,” Haruki Muramaki said. “That’s what the storm is all about.”

Congratulations to all the graduates! We did it.

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    Shauna MaltaApr 30, 2024 at 7:55 pm

    So inspirational Priya- love that you took this opportunity to share such heartfelt thoughts and gratitude.

    You will continue to build on this strong foundation to become our future colleague in physical therapy!