Address by Student Senate President
Juan Carlos Flores ’11
Student Senate President Juan Carlos Flores '11.
Good afternoon. Once again, welcome to the start of what will certainly be an amazing year at Dickinson. My name is Juan Carlos Flores and I am a senior Law & Policy and Italian Studies double-major. I also am honored to serve as your Student Senate President, which is why I address you today.
To members of the faculty, staff, and administration, I thank you for your continued service to the college, your commitment to the enrichment and growth of this student body, and your spirit of optimism at any challenge. To fellow upperclassmen, I know that this year, whether your second, third, or final year here, will be one remembered for our boundless growth as individuals. To the class of 2014, welcome to the next stage in your pursuit of knowledge and self-reflection.
For those of you who will be walking up these limestone steps for the first time in just a few minutes, I hope that you can appreciate the true value of a Dickinson experience. While you have yet to truly test and observe all that this institution has to offer, your place in this community is already well-established. Your class is historic- the Class of 2014 is the largest class in the college’s 237-year history. But you will not be defined by your precedent setting numbers. Rather, you will be defined largely by what you individually bring to this campus.
Your time at Dickinson will not be defined solely within the boundaries of a classroom though that will be an important proving ground. Although the things you learn in the classrooms will reach far out into the world and bring in elements of our global society that are unique to Dickinson’s approach to a liberal arts education, I have to argue that what you learn from your classes and your experiences and how you apply them are truly the test of your time spent at Dickinson.
Now, let me ask each of you a few questions. The answers to these questions help to illuminate what you uniquely bring to campus. They may seem simple, but they are truly as intricate as you decide to make them. These critical questions are:
Who are you?
What defines you?
Why did you choose Dickinson?
Who do you want to become in your time here?
How do you plan to become that person?
Over the next few days and weeks you will ask or be asked many of these questions. I hope you will open up to each other, learn each other’s story and come to appreciate all the things you bring to this community. Let me share a little bit of my own story in order to help you appreciate the questions I asked you to think about.
I am from Los Angeles, a large and diverse community that has shaped how I perceive the world. I was born to an American mother from Los Angeles, California and a Mexican father from the small town of Zapoltitic, Jalisco.
While I am the youngest of the 3, I am the first in my family, to attend college. To say even more of my educational realities and resources before coming to Dickinson, I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. Thus, while education was something important, it was something that in my family was largely about self-motivation. Before going on to high school, I lacked the same motivation that brought me to Dickinson.
Everything changed for me the summer before 9th grade when a chronic illness took a toll on me and my education. Because I was ill, I wasn’t able to attend regular school. I was 14 years old and my circumstances, for all intents and purposes, labeled me a drop out.
My school placed me into a continuation program. My family did not have the money or resources to afford private tutoring, supplemental education, or anything that could give me a normal ninth grade year. Instead, I had to independently study all of my courses with very little assistance. When I entered high school, in the 10th grade, I had a newfound motivation and perseverance for my education. I made up almost a year’s worth of work and managed to get back on track academically. In so doing, I earned the respect of my teachers and exceeded their expectations. Before the end of that first semester, I was recommended into my school’s magnet program, placed in honors and other advanced courses.
It was through these opportunities that I was able to pursue the coursework, clubs and organizations, volunteer opportunities, and community college classes at night and during the summers that earned me a nomination to a scholarship program. I am a POSSE scholar, which is 4-year, full-tuition, and leadership scholarship given to a group of 10-12 students who are picked from urban cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, and sent to colleges like Dickinson. We also receive 8 months of training together as a group where we learn about the challenges and realities of leadership on a college campus. POSSE is an opportunity that helped me to realize the full potential of my education.
My experiences are important to who I am as an individual, just as your own experiences are to you. My experiences have taught me that you must be self-motivated and that you should appreciate every opportunity and obstacle that life presents.
I chose Dickinson because I wanted a environment where I wouldn’t be lost as part of the system; where my education wouldn’t be rooted in numbers and pass rates, but in a community where my own contributions to the classroom are appreciated; where I could define my own experience.
When I got to campus, I knew that I wanted to make a difference by helping others, serving a cause greater than myself, and pushing myself to achieve all that I could. I ran for Student Senate during my first few days on campus. Since then, I continued to involve myself and serve on Senate year after year. Senate has truly been my niche on campus and has helped me to define who I want to be. It is important that you find that place of commitment and passion for yourself here.
When people first meet me they don’t know all these things about me. Too often we see each other as one dimensional. We often let one thing define a person for us. I want remind you that people are multi-dimensional. In our community we value getting beyond the surface, gathering all the facts and finding the connections that inevitably exist.
When I say “our community,” allow me to stress that Dickinson is both home to students, and home to faculty, administrators, and staff. Those who teach in the class rooms, cook in the dining hall, and clean the residence halls are all valued and respected members of this community. While our time here doesn’t often exceed 4 years, these individuals have been a part of this community and their time at Dickinson will often surpass our own. Learn people’s names in the Dining Hall. Speak to the housekeeping staff. Visit your faculty in their offices. Administrators are not here to hassle you, they want to facilitate your experience. Over the next four years I hope you come to appreciate and respect each and every member of this community.
We all come to this college with unique experiences. There are students who come to Dickinson with very few resources and those who come with plenty. My experience has been that no matter where people have come from, at Dickinson, students are collectively motivated by the spirit of this place. Part of that spirit is to give back to the community.
Whether we realize it or not, our being part of THIS institution and receiving a Dickinson degree puts us in a very privileged class of individuals. Only a minority of people obtain a college degree. We should use this privilege of education to self-reflect, appreciate our experiences, and develop a sense of optimism with which we will face the many challenges of this world.
Open yourself up in this place. Do not make assumptions about who sits next to you in your class, or about who is part of the Dickinson community. Instead, get to know people, learn from all the members of this community, and appreciate your ability to define yourself by the great opportunities Dickinson has to offer.
Thank you and good luck in all your endeavors this year. I trust that you will make the most of your time at Dickinson.