Class response highlights overcoming obstacles - Purdue Exponent: Campus

Class response highlights overcoming obstacles

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Posted: Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:20 pm | Updated: 2:57 am, Mon Dec 16, 2013.

John Christopher Russo, the class responder at the Winter Commencement Ceremony and a recent alumnus from the College of Technology, used a quote from the Star Wars movie series in his address to his classmates, parents and faculty.

He said, “As the great philosopher Yoda once said ‘Do or do not, there is no try.’”

Nearly 3,000 Boilermakers entered the Elliott Hall of Music as students on Sunday afternoon and left as graduates from Purdue.

Russo went to speak largely about overcoming his disability: He was born with spinal Muscular Atrophy, which limited his mobility to a wheelchair.

“I’m an ordinary kid, just like all of you or at least that’s what I have tried to be all my life even though I’m a person with a disability,” he added. He spoke then about the two times that he has represented and helped the United States National Power Soccer team win the Powerwheelchair Football World Cup.

Russo used himself as an example of overcoming great challenges in hopes of encouraging his fellow graduates.

For some matriculating graduates like Holly Chan, a graduate student from the College of Technology, the next step following the ceremony is the obstacle itself, as it remains unclear. But due to her education and experience at Purdue, she believes the options are bountiful.

“It’s been really interesting because there is a really big entrepreneurial collective at Purdue and I’ve been exposed to that. Then I’ve had my internships, which have shown me the industry route,” she said.

Chan went on to advise freshman to find the factors that drive them rather than a financial benefits a job can offer. 

"I went to grad school because I wasn’t ready to be an adult…about a year into grad school I felt like I was ready to take on the world,” she said. “I would tell freshman that it is OK to not know the degree that you want right now and also to not just go for a degree for the money.”

Justice Loretta H. Rush, a Purdue alumna and currently a justice on the Indiana Supreme Court served as the keynote speaker for the ceremonies. Rush reminded graduates to use the possibilities presented to them to make the world a better place. 

“With nearly 3,000 Boilermakers poised to make a difference in the world the possibilities are limitless," Rush said. "Graduation is a time to reflect on accomplishments, but also a time of hope when these students are faced with many choices about what they will do to make the world a better place."

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