PSU Superstar English major Hannah Hounsell was invited to give a keynote address at the 2016 Connections dinner for Scholarship recipients, their families, and esteemed Plymouth State guests. Here is the text of her speech, posted with her permission:
Good evening President and Mrs. Birx, honored guests, scholarship donors and fellow scholars,
Allow me to start by thanking all the donors here tonight who value higher education and have supported individual students through financial contributions. I would also like to acknowledge all of my peers for their determination and work ethic. It takes a lot of work to excel in college. I’m honored to speak on behalf of all my hard working peers tonight.
The beginning of my own college journey was rough: I came from the small town of Tamworth, New Hampshire to Plymouth, kicking and screaming the whole way. The thought of college terrified me and it all stemmed from the fear of not being able to pay for it. I chose Plymouth for its low tuition costs and its well-known Education department. From the beginning, I relied on scholarships to even be able to pursue post-secondary education.
Thankfully, that’s where the rough spot of my journey ended in terms of worrying about the decision to go to college. Immediately after arriving at Plymouth, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. It has provided so many opportunities that I never anticipated. I was hired at the Writing Center. I became immediately involved with two student organizations, PSU Pride and Poets & Writers. The Writing Center was comprised of a zany, welcoming staff that was instrumental in my professional development. Pride was so important for me my freshman year. I was able to explore facets of my identity that I had never fathomed and forge new friendships that would stay with me through senior year. In my sophomore year, I became the Treasurer of Poets and Writers. Working closely with other artists to create our literary magazine Centripetal and putting together monthly poetry Open Mics are always intellectual and emotional experiences. I feel like I have been able to directly tap into Plymouth’s creative vein where expression runs freely.
I also can’t believe that I was lucky enough to end up being a part of the English Department family. Those professors are some of the kindest, most caring and passionate teachers here at Plymouth. They expect a lot of out you. They will make you hustle until you are analyzing your Hong Kong Takeout Menu, but they will do everything they can to help you along the way. And us English majors do a lot of things along the way. I’ve been in five different middle and high schools for tangible, field experience. I’ve written fifteen page critical analyses, mapped nonlinear Indian literature, designed iPhone applications, and created interactive social media stories, academic blogs, twitter accounts, podcasts, and videos. These are things I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing outside of college.
There is debate right now about whether or not we should be encouraging young adults to attend post-secondary school. There’s a lot of horror stories about young adults not finding jobs or struggling to pay their student loans back. Many question the value of a Bachelor’s Degree. But for me, it will always be invaluable. I will leave Plymouth knowing how to put together a literary magazine, how to balance an organization’s $7,000 budget, and what to do for my LGBT community. Upon graduating Plymouth, I will have legal teacher certification in New Hampshire. My degree will be a starting point for realizing more long term goals: high school English teaching, a Master’s, a Doctorate, and maybe even professorship. I will leave with life lessons, lifelong friends, and a deep knowledge of a subject that I am passionate about. And most importantly, I know that I have the increased ability to face challenges, problem-solve, lead, and advocate because of my time at Plymouth State.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t have had these experiences or gained this knowledge without the help of scholarships and those of you who provided them. They haven’t just lessened the burden of loans– although that’s a relief too. My parents and I simply could not have paid the semesterly bills and other college expenses. Additionally, scholarship support– your support– allowed me to purchase a working laptop, textbooks for class, even groceries to sustain me physically.
Every student here tonight has a complex support system backing them: their family, friends, teachers, coaches, significant others. It is amazing that this support system includes generous strangers who care for their betterment and their futures. I want to thank my individual supporters: Walter R. and Dorothy D. Peterson and the Class of 1946. And on behalf of all of my fellow scholars, thank you to every donor here tonight for believing in us and helping us realize our goals and dreams.