3 UW Tacoma students chosen as speakers for 2019 commencement

Spring quarter is quickly drawing to a close, and UW Tacoma seniors are closer than ever to graduating. With just a few short weeks away from graduation, the process of selecting speakers and performers for commencement has recently reached its end.

“The selection process is run by ASUWT where the Selection Committee consists of seven ASUWT members who volunteer their time to review applicants and auditions – ultimately voting for their top speaker and singer in each ceremony,” said Zvon Casanova, program assistant for the Department of Student Engagement. “The top scoring candidates are then forwarded to the Lead Commencement Staff team to reassure they are in good class standing and on track to graduate.”

This year’s selection committee was comprised of four board members and three senators from ASUWT.

Christie Peralta, ASUWT’s Director of University Affairs who has served on the selection committee for three years, spoke more about the selection process.

“Speaker candidates must be a graduating senior,” Peralta said. “However, singer candidates can be anyone affiliated with UW Tacoma. For example, one of the singers last year was the daughter of one of the graduating seniors.”

Casanova also explained that for this year, 24 total applicants were ultimately narrowed down to three people: Justin Cabanos, who will speak at the gold ceremony, Diana Algomeda, who will speak at the purple ceremony, and Hannah Cho, who will perform the National Anthem at both ceremonies.

When asked about how the speakers felt about the opportunity to speak at the graduation ceremony, Algomeda expressed how excited she was to be able to represent her background as a first-generation college student.

“Being selected for me means being able to represent and validate those who have been and continue to be excluded within higher education,” Algomeda said. “My speech is a reflection of myself as a first-generation [college student] and immigrant Latina. Through my involvement on campus and education I have had various conversations with students who continue to feel as outsiders and [bear] constant pressures to serve as positive representatives of their people [communities/identities] … I feel honored to have been selected because I am able to validate and empower those who can identify with my story but also those who do not.”

For Cabanos, the opportunity to speak is a way of showing himself how far he has come academically.

“It sounds weird, but I remember how mad I was to not be able to stand on the school stage with my friends… [my parents] decided to pull me out of public school and finish my 8th grade year as an online student [because of challenges faced with administration]” Cabanos said. “I was mad because I was unable to stand up there to receive an award that was honestly mine to begin with. While disappointing, the ability to speak at a university level commencement completely overshadows the awards ceremony… Speaking at graduation is a chance for me to reflect on myself and be proud of the tremendous growth I’ve gone through.”