Cece Bustoz, Site Director, Central City
Jennifer McChristian, Site Director, East Valley
Kim Owens, Former Executive Director, Year Up Arizona
Nallely Retana, Central City, Class of 2020
DuShawn Neldon, Jr., East Valley, Class of 2020
Joshua Thompson, Year Up Alumnus
Virginia Tapia, Year Up Alumna
Orlando Garcia, Year Up Alumnus
Central City, Class of 2020
DuShawn Nelson, Jr.
East Valley, Class of 2020
Welcome to the Year Up Arizona Commencement Ceremony!
Today we celebrate five successful years of closing the Opportunity Divide for hundreds of young adults in Arizona. It is an absolute privilege to be here today, witnessing these talented and motivated young adults graduate from their Year Up, ready to launch their careers and achieve their dreams.
We at Year Up Arizona are honored to have been a part of the journey of these dynamic young adults. Their drive, energy, and commitment to reaching their full potential has certainly inspired each one of us here tonight. The 116 students present this evening are graduating during an unprecedented time. They launched their Learning and Development phase full of hope and expectations, eager to embark on a yearlong journey towards their professional careers. Each young adult has faced adversity and remained steadfast on changing their career trajectory. Their Year Up journey provided them the space to continue to demonstrate how their resilience would lead to success. Our young adults persevered through the changing environments and impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Shelter-in-Place orders, state mandated curfews, civil unrest, and economic turmoil. They’ve shown us that through hard work, eagerness and a positive attitude, that it’s possible to achieve anything we strive for in life. Last September, Year Up Arizona opened an East Valley campus, in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. Today, 21 exceptionally talented pioneers from this campus have successfully navigated the complex journey to build the skills necessary to launch their careers. These young adults are the inaugural class of students who trusted the vision of Year Up and our founder, Gerald Chertavian, to embark on a path of competency-based learning where they tackled applying classroom learning to practical circumstances and demonstrated mastery of these skills. They have leveraged their learning and demonstrated adaptability in their internships, which, for many, transitioned from in-person to virtual and back. Their grit, energy and unyielding willingness to reach their potential have shaped the culture and defined the expectations for future cohorts at the East Valley Campus. Congratulations, Class 1 2020 Vision. You have achieved a major milestone; one of many more that will surely come in your life.
In addition, we have 95 remarkable young adults completing their Year Up journey as the 10th Class and 5th year at our Central City campus. What a milestone this is! In collaboration with our college partner, GateWay Community College, we have witnessed these tenacious young adults navigate transitions in their academic learning experience and to a full virtual program. LC Ohana X, Mighty X, and United X, you are resilient. Resilience exemplifies self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships and purpose. In challenging times, you discovered ways to connect to each other and to your Learning Community staff. You have certainly set the bar high for those to follow and in doing so have touched the hearts of Year Up Arizona. Class 10, I leave you with one word to remember your Year Up journey – familia!
This journey wouldn’t be possible without the support of those in the audience who believe, as we do, that talent is equally distributed in this country, while opportunity is not. You recognize that the Opportunity Divide will only be exacerbated by our current economic state and stand firm in your commitment to ensuring that the urban youth of Arizona have the training and access to professional careers. My thanks to our corporate partners, funders, community partners, volunteers, friends and family who have come to believe in this program, and believe in you. As a community we are committed to helping the more than 117,000 young adults in Arizona who deserve the chance to realize their fullest potential in education and careers. Without supporters such as yourself, Year Up Arizona would not be possible.
On behalf of all of us at Year Up Arizona, congratulations to our graduates!
I PLEDGE that as a member of the Year Up National Alumni Association, I will continue to uphold and promote Year Up’s mission and core values. I will strive for excellence and realize my potential. I will use my time and talents to contribute to the success of Year Up, its students, and its alumni. I will take action in the movement to close the Opportunity Divide. I take this oath freely, as a promise to lift while I climb, and to be a lifelong ambassador of Year Up.