My alma mater held its 2021 Commencement over the weekend and I had a special reason to watch.

Karen Torres, the student Commencement speaker at Indiana State University, is an impressive communication major who earlier this year received the first-generation leadership scholarship created by my wife and me.

Besides being an outstanding student, Karen was actively involved in student government and her sorority. She also served as a role-model ambassador for the university and hosted a university video program called “Almost Live.”

Karen abandoned the traditional “we finally did it” Commencement remarks. Instead, she acknowledged “rough and hard times” and put the past year in perspective.

“We all know that going through this last year of college with the pandemic was a struggle to say the least,” Karen said. “But this moment we are living though is just that, a moment.”

Karen’s optimism is evident as she cites the obstacles overcome and lessons learned during the past year.

“If we all made it here, through this crazy time, we can make it through anything,” she asserted. “The struggles of 2020 are nothing compared to those which many of us have gone through in order to get to this point. As a daughter of an immigrant family, I am beyond blessed to be able to stand up here and speak to you all today.”

Karen told graduates that her parents, who immigrated from Mexico before she was born, taught her the value of both education and sacrifice. For her, earning a degree in communication was a goal achieved.

“This is the only moment that I have been looking forward to since I was old enough to understand why my parents migrated to the U.S. and I thank God for this moment,” Karen said.

Her advice to 2021 graduates: Think back on your story, what moments will you remember? What moments will you try to forget? What moments will you try to re-live? And, importantly, don’t forget to thank those who got you here.

So what’s next? Karen’s career goal is to work for a marketing or public relations agency, and eventually she’d like to start her own firm.

Needless to say, we’re proud of this rock star and eager to follow her promising career.