Screenshot of Emely Guevara

SASN Student Gives Speech as Virtual Valedictorian in “I’m Still Graduating” Worldwide Virtual Commencement

Political Science Student Emely Guevara and another Rutgers student, Mason Gross's Sana Colter, were featured in the event by Her Campus that included actors, authors, and luminaries

 

When Emely Guevara woke up one recent morning, she immediately reached for her phone to check email as usual. This time, the Rutgers University-Newark senior received a big surprise: she had been chosen to speak as a “virtual valedictorian” for a global, celebrity-filled online ceremony called “I’m Still Graduating.”

She was one of two Rutgers students featured during the event Friday by the Her Campus media company, which produces Spoon University, College Fashionista, and other online publications. Sana Colter, who is graduating magna cum laude from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers-New Brunswick, with a major in music performance and a minor in music technology, blended a performance on the flute with an original rap song during her appearance at Friday’s event.

“It is such an honor to have been one of the few student speakers selected out of thousands of applicants to speak to the graduating class of 2020 alongside some of the world’s greatest entertainers, business trailblazers, fashion icons and politicians,” said Guevara. “It meant the world to me to have been able to represent Rutgers University and New Jersey.”

Colter was also grateful for the celebration to honor the Class of 2020.

"When quarantine first began, I spent so much time mentally preparing myself for the fact that my graduation from undergrad would be canceled," Colter said on Instagram. "A day that celebrates all of your hard work, accomplishments, friends made, etc. just up and gone.... I’m very appreciative of Her Campus for putting together an event like this."

Mason Gross student Sana Colter performs an original piece for the ceremony. Video courtesy Her Campus Media.

 

Guevara, who majored in Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies, finished her coursework last fall and had been looking forward to spending the spring connecting with professors, classmates, and the RU-N community; plans that changed due to COVID-19.  “Going to political science lectures with my friends, who were also my classmates, is what I will truly miss most about Rutgers-Newark. I credit the political science department for helping me become a stronger student,” she said.

Guevara spent last summer working at the Office of the Attorney General under the Division of Consumer Affairs, and this spring interning in D.C. at the U.S. Senate. She is currently planning to attend law school in hopes of becoming one of the nation’s top practicing criminal law attorneys, and, aspires to become Attorney General of the United States.

That may seem like a lofty goal, but Guevara’s teachers agree that she is exceptional. Hyacinth Miller, a Teaching Instructor for Political Science and African-American and African Studies, said "it was immediately evident that Emely is not only academically gifted, but gregarious, community-minded and focused. This will not be the last we hear about Emely.”

Elizabeth Hull, a professor in the Political Science department, agreed. "Emely, whom I had in three classes, is a phenomenon - at once so intelligent and so vibrant, warm, and engaged. I put nothing past her,” she said.  

For now, Guevara is enjoying her moment. “I feel so proud to have been able to give a speech that hopefully was able to encourage not only the graduating class of 2020 but the entire audience as well! It has been truly amazing to receive messages from people all around the world who were so moved by my speech.”

Emely Guevara speaks at "I'm Still Graduating", a global event to celebrate the class of 2020. Video courtesey Her Campus Media.

 

As Colter prepared for her appearance, the classically trained flutist worked to present the world with a blend of multiple genres that give new context to classical flute performance.

“It means the world to me to be part of a ceremony dedicated to the class of 2020. Everyone's been creative, staying optimistic,” Colter says. “Her Campus said, 'You deserve to be celebrated, not only for your academics, but for all you've gone through.' "

Colter dedicated her senior year at the Mason Gross to providing support for musicians from underrepresented groups and helping them overcome barriers to pursuing careers in the arts.

She cofounded Cultural Rhythm Expressing Art to Empower (CREATE) with Class of 2020 dance student Ariana Speight. The group provides networking opportunities for students and a platform for artists to land on-campus performances and addresses black and Latinx artistic history.

Colter said she overcame the disappointment over the last few months and is feeling grateful as her time at Rutgers comes to an end.

"I see everyone as very resilient and strong," she says of the class of 2020. "You want the big ceremony; all you look forward to. But everyone is really strong right now. At first, we were very emotional. There was a lot of crying, 'Oh my God, I wish I was being recognized.' But at this point we're grateful for our lives – to be alive and to celebrate. It's an amazing, simple feeling."