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| Friday, May 15, 2020

As a senior, like many others I have found myself reflecting on how I thought graduation ought to be. I had never pictured masks or social distancing. I had imagined senior week, a sunny commencement day and a neat closure to my academic experience. As an athlete, I planned for a spring season and training with a team that felt like family. Like me, so many plans held by the class of 2020 have changed drastically. My mom has always said to me, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For some reason, she is always right.

My path to my degree has always had its obstacles and barriers, but nothing like COVID. Like so many others, I never imagined a semester quite like this one (flashback to The Observer Prom Zoom Call Edition). In so many ways we are apart, but in others we are closer than ever. We’ve learned how to come together from thousands of miles apart. Sadly, some lost their athletic season. Some lost housing. Some lost loved ones. As it is so often in life, we had to change plans, and then probably change them again. Even so, we persisted. The spirit and hope of the class of 2020 will be remembered for generations to come.

My college experience has been unique at every turn. Thank you to the tri-campus community for all of the opportunities and memories made. You never really know how great it is until it’s almost over. As students, it is hard to give ourselves credit for our accomplishments. We are always pushing for the next exam, the next internship or the next accomplishment. We are always pushing forward to our “next” without really looking back to see how far we’ve come. Please take a break in between to look around and admire the view. Our campuses have held amazing talent, leaders and dreamers, and the class of 2020 is no exception. Please continue to volunteer, lead and contribute to your communities because you all have so much to offer. In these uncertain times, I am certain that the class of 2020 will go out and create the change they wish to see in the world. 

I would like to congratulate all senior athletes, but I would also like to personally thank the volleyball team at Saint Mary’s. Thank you for playing your hearts out this season. There has never been a team quite like ours. The talent, heart and love of my teammates will be how I remember my athletic experience, like so many other seniors. I hope to see you all again on the court in the fall. To upcoming athletes, do not take this time for granted. Work hard and enjoy being a student athlete. Even in the hard workouts and frustrating drills, you will look back and fall in love with the sport all over again. Being an athlete does not end on the court, or the bounds of campus, and neither does your athletic family. Be proud of your success and carry your lessons and experiences with you wherever you may go.

Thank you to my family, friends, professors and coaches that have taught me so much about life and myself. I would never have been able to succeed without your guidance, love and support. Although I hope to continue my academic experience, I will always remember my undergrad experience here on campus and all of those that made it so special. 

To the seniors at The Observer, and especially the Photo Department: Ann Curtis, Anna Mason, Emma Farnan,  Anne Smierciak and Zach Yim –– thank you for being a part of The Observer Family at Notre Dame. Although you may not miss the late night photo shifts (or Lightroom), I will miss having you behind our cameras and walking all three campuses. Congratulations and thank you for offering your talent to the department and the paper. I hope you make this commencement special and continue your love of capturing the moment. 

To the class of 2020, although we cannot be together, all of our achievements are worth celebrating. In the photo department at The Observer, I have enjoyed being able to capture the games, fans and many other celebrations on campus. I hope that when it is safe, the department will be able to capture many more moments on campus, including a celebration for the class of 2020 that is so well deserved. Until then, stay strong. Spend time with your loved ones and enjoy graduation. Put on your cap and gown anyways. Do not minimize your success trying to plan for the “next” when there is so much to celebrate now. 

Happy Commencement class of 2020, we did it!


Nola Wallace

At Saint Mary’s, Nola worked as a Resident Assistant and The Observer Photo Editor for 2020. In her spare time, Nola volunteered through Americorps, Boys and Girls Club and the South Bend homicide unit. She will receive her BA in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience. Nola plans to attend graduate school in 2021 to study Forensic Psychology while working as a Research Investigator. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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