By Colleen Clark
On Saturday, I walked across the stage alongside 270 of my peers and got my diploma.
I didn’t cry like I thought I would, but a strange panic overcame me as I watched the people I love graduate. These are the people I became an adult with, the people that I built a community with, the people who became my family when I had to start from scratch in a new place. Graduation represents a new beginning in their lives. No more all-nighters in the labs, no more homework parties on the weekends, no more coffee breaks at five in the morning as we encourage each other to go on. We are all going to have different lives and different struggles now. I will never see a lot of these people again.
I am not afraid for any of my friends’ futures. Genuinely, I think everyone I know has been incredibly well-equipped by CCAD. Most of my friends already even have jobs or are in the interviewing process. I don’t worry about their futures, but I worry about what my community will look like without them. As weird as it sounds, I will miss the camaraderie I feel when I see everyone at 2 a.m. with our mutual under-eye bags. Those eye bags were battle scars!
I don’t think I will miss much about the college lifestyle (I can finally SLEEP), but I will miss the way it shaped my friendships, and I will miss seeing my friends every day.
I was struck by the love and happiness that filled the Palace Theatre on Saturday. When we all walked out into the audience, I was met by so many cheering and screaming families that I kind of forgot where I was for a second and thought I was famous. I miraculously found my parents and my best friend in the audience as I was walking in, and I showed them my hat that I had kept secret from them. I told them that art students are allowed to decorate their caps, but I wouldn’t let them see mine until the big day (there were some amazing decorations, by the way– giant feathers, Hawaiian flowers, intricate pattern designs, carpet tassels, and original monster paintings). I just wrote “Thank you mom and dad!” in big letters on my hat, but my mom cried when she saw it. It wasn’t much at all, but I wanted everyone to know (especially my parents) that I could not have done anything I have here at CCAD without their love and support.
The ceremony had a sad tone, because our beloved president Denny was in the hospital and unable to attend and give the commencement address. You could feel the love for him seeping through every educator and dignitary on stage as his speech was read by Dwayne Todd, the vice president of student affairs, and before the ceremony we were all given green ribbons to support him. Even in sad, stressful moments, CCAD knows how to come together as a community. I felt that sense of camaraderie I value so much when I saw the sea of green ribbons in the crowd, as if they were simply a normal part of the graduation uniform. I thought it was very fitting that we all carried a bit of Denny with us across the stage, as if he really were there.
One of the things that stuck out to me most during the graduation speeches was the quote “leave the world a better place than you found it.” My main motivator in making art has been the hope of helping people. I want to change things that need changing and give voices to those who are not being heard. By helping to start the Illustration Student Collective and by campaigning and rooting for more comics in the curriculum, I hoped to make CCAD a better place than I found it.
CCAD ended up leaving me way, way better than I was before. I am a better artist of course, but I am also a better friend. I am a better listener, a better communicator, a better leader, a better follower. I am better. And now I have a degree to prove it.
Thank you CCAD. Thank you to my family. Thank you to my new family of classmates who will spread out across the world. I am glad I can always share this experience with you. Thank you to the Illustration and Liberal Arts departments for making me a professional.
Thank you to the Admissions team for giving me this amazing blogging opportunity, and I hope any future students see how happy I am and it helps them choose CCAD.
Thank you to the amazing, talented, hard-working Class of 2014.
We did it!
Colleen Clark is a CCAD Alumna who majored in Illustration and wishes Star Trek was real. She loves comics, puppies, anything involving Tina Fey, and sharing her art and thoughts through her online blog.
The Life at CCAD blog brings prospective students and their families into ongoing conversation with CCAD students, admissions counselors, and financial aid staff—including occasional visits from other members of the CCAD family.