Read Time: 6 minutes
Friends, family, and faculty cheered the hard work of 123 graduate students and 314 undergraduate students at the spring 2022 McKay School convocation. Speakers celebrated students’ achievements, marveled at their pandemic-earned grit, and expressed excitement for the future, even in uncertain times.
Graduate Lindsey Jorgensen, who earned a degree in elementary education with a minor in teaching English as a second or other language, spoke to the graduates about her initial struggle when deciding to major in education. She was concerned that fellow students would belittle her decision with comments like, “Do you just color for homework?”.
Jorgensen said she quickly realized that teaching should not be compared to more technical majors like computer science or nursing, as it is difficult in its own way. No education major is taking “the easy way out,” she added, and all BYU graduates have learned how to do hard things through their majors. Education students went through many trials, including learning how to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That effort was successful, Jorgensen said, thanks to McKay School faculty and her classmates. Students bonded over the McKay School pebble ice machine and the perennially understocked vending machines, and used that as a springboard to deeper support and learning throughout their path to becoming teachers. “We are now equipped with the adequate preparation and training to make a difference in the lives of the future. Each of us are embarking on an adventure that will change students, and they, in turn, will change us.”
Speaker Oscar Olaya, who earned an educational specialist degree in school psychology, spoke of the ways the gospel shaped his decision to go into education.
Olaya had a tough childhood, with health concerns, losing his mother, poverty, and lack of support. He started college but ended up dropping out. Shortly after, his life turned around when he met missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I visited the church, studied the doctrine of Christ as found in the Book of Mormon, and received an answer form the Holy Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith is a prophet, and the Church is led by Jesus Christ,” he said. “That was the beginning of my love for learning.”
Going forward, Olaya faced further trials and disappointments over the ensuing years, but he re-read Lehi's vision of the tree of life in The Book of Mormon to remind him that “the Lord is with us every step of the way. He is never far, even in our dark moments. He will guide us to that which is most sweet, above all that we have ever tasted, even the Love of God.”
Olaya said he intends to continue learning throughout his life, “as we grow in our knowledge of God as gained through rigorous academic and professional training, we are better able to be instruments in His hands to bless the lives of His children.” He expressed gratitude for the high expectations, coupled with love and support, that he has received from his wife Sarah, friends, classmates, and professors. “They . . . have been patient with me and have lifted me up to be a little better. These are lifelong learners and lifelong ministers. Now, we as educators have the blessing of helping others like my 20-year-old self get out of despair and make it!”
Richard Sudweeks, PhD, professor in the Instructional Psychology and Technology Department in the BYU McKay School, said “disciples of Jesus Christ have a responsibility to go out into the world and uplift the people they encounter and contribute to making the world a better place.” He shared seven “suggestions about what you can do to make a difference in the world” with graduating students:
- Do your job as best as you can.
- Maintain a proper sense of perspective about what it means to live the gospel.
- Shun contention and actively promote cooperation instead of conflict.
- Look beyond yourself and attend to the needs of individuals who are estranged, distressed, or otherwise marginalized.
- When the time is appropriate, get involved in worthwhile causes that are outside of your employment.
- Collaborate by joining forces with others and working cooperatively with them.
- Let God prevail in your life.
The last suggestion is the most important, Sudweeks said: “Instead of isolating yourself from the world, get involved and take an active part. Look for opportunities to serve others and to build relationships with them. God will magnify your efforts, and the world will be a better place as a result.”
Writer: Morgan Keller
Photography: McKay Creative
Contact: Cindy Glad