She has lived with countless labels, starting with addict, teen mom, domestic violence survivor. Recently she earned some more names: straight A student, valedictorian, leader.
“The world needs more heroes, and I charge you all to become one,” BCArc employee Soncere Williams told the graduates at Berkshire Community College during its Commencement speech as their top graduate of the class.
“The system works for a few people, but doesn’t work for most,” Soncere said emphatically during an interview at her BCArc program. “We have the ability to serve everyone, to take care of everyone’s needs, but it’s not designed to do that, unfortunately. People need help, we have the ability to help them, but we don’t have leaders who care to help people in need.”
Her mission — commitment — to serving those in need took time to develop. She spent 15 years working in retail before moving from Albany to Pittsfield, securing services for her son on the autistic spectrum, and joining BCArc, where she’s served many roles, currently in an overnight shift so she could continue her studies in social work.
Soncere started at BCArc full time, then moved to relief work, and back to full time, taking shifts that worked around her school and parenting schedule. She moved to overnight work to accommodate her newest schedule — specifically full-time school. She plans to complete a four-year degree at Elms College, and then pursue a Master’s.
“The work we do at BCArc is the work of heroes,” she said. “I’d like to eventually make an impact at the at the systems level, influencing policy to benefit those who need help.”
An in-depth article on Soncere can be found on BCC’s Website here.
Valedictorian Speech at Berkshire Community College Commencement
Delivered May 31, 2019
Thank you, President Kennedy, for the introduction.
President Kennedy, Vice President Berne, trustees, Senator Edward J. Markey, honored guests, friends, family, and of course, the reason we have all gathered here today, my fellow graduates of the Class of 2019.
Today we celebrate crossing the finish line at Berkshire Community College, but our journeys have just begun. Being bestowed the honor to speak before you today is incredible, and I contemplated for quite some time the words of wisdom I wanted to share with you. My path began in college with the desire to help others and become a social worker; a social justice hero if you will. I feel that our world needs more heroes, and I asked myself, how can this be accomplished. I have realized, through my years at BCC, that heroes can come in many forms, each one of us can be a hero as we embark on the adventure that is our life. Being a hero does not necessarily mean we have to have superpowers, like the ability to fly, or super strength, although that might be pretty amazing?! Being a hero simply means doing what we can in our daily lives to make the world a much brighter place, even if it is the world of only a single person. So, I began to ask myself, what are the qualities of a hero, how can we all become heroes in our daily lives, and I came up with 10 characteristics that qualified, and that we can all embrace, regardless of our choice in careers.
Characteristic 1- Heroes are courageous. Be courageous as you maneuver through your years. Have the courage to stand up for what you feel is right. Have the courage to speak out about what you feel is not right. Have the courage to challenge others thinking, challenge ineffective policies, and challenge social inadequacies.
Characteristic 2- Heroes are passionate. No matter where your path takes you, be passionate about what you do. Each and every one of our career paths are just as important as the others. We all play an extremely important role in making the world work, so be passionate about whatever it is you plan to do. If you plan to go on and study the life cycle of gnats, be passionate about it, because those annoying little suckers are important too.
Characteristic 3- Heroes have integrity. Do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Don’t do the right thing simply because there are watchful eyes, do the right thing because that’s what this world needs. Yes, this includes avoiding plagiarism.
Characteristic 4- Heroes are honest. Be honest with others, but also yourself. Through the years I have stressed to my children that honesty is key to most things in life. If there is a problem, and you are honest about it, we can always find a solution. If we are not honest then we will never be able to solve that problem because we aren’t aware that a problem even exists. With that said, I would like to be honest with all of you, and this may come as a surprise to many…..I am not a natural red head.
Characteristic 5 – Heroes have confidence. I know when I began my journey through college, I was absolutely terrified, I had little confidence in my ability to cross this finish line, as I am sure many of you experienced as well. But look at us now, we have made it!! Have confidence in yourself and help to instill confidence in others. Build other people up, tell them they are amazing, tell them they have done a good job, tell them you are proud.
Characteristic 6- Heroes have patience. Be patient, with others, as well as yourself. We didn’t make it here today overnight, we’ve had patience through our years at BCC because we knew one day we would be here, receiving our diplomas or certificates. Not many things happen overnight, goals may take years or decades to come to fruition, so be patient with those goals, both yours and those of others.
Characteristic 7- Heroes are selfless. While it is of the utmost importance to take care of ourselves, it is equally important to take care of others. Be selfless as you wander out into the world. Volunteer your time, donate to your local pantry, adopt a child for the holidays, advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, seek out ways in our community to help others.
Characteristic 8- Heroes care. Care about the injustices in our world, care about others who are struggling, care about your future clients, patients, and projects. Having a caring attitude as you move through life, makes the world so much more beautiful, but it takes all of us to accomplish the beauty we wish to see.
Characteristic 9- Heroes show humility. We all make mistakes, and that is ok, it is part of the human condition, so congratulations, you are not a robot. The way we learn from mistakes is by accepting them, and the way we make others feel ok when they make mistakes is by showing humility and allowing them to know that they are human too.
Characteristic 10- Heroes are supportive. As you look back on your time spent working towards graduation, think of all of the support you have been given, and the support you have given others. We would not be here today if our families, friends, professors, faculty, staff, fellow classmates, and so on, had not been here to support us. So be supportive of others because you know how incredibly useful that has been to you.
Let’s celebrate the heroes that have helped us on our journey, those faculty members that have had a profound impact on our educational experience, the classmates whom we have leaned on to get through classes and exams, the family and friends who have blotted our tears when we secretly cried over papers we did not want to write, and the professors that not only provided us the knowledge we needed, but also dealt with our crazy antics. They are all heroes and deserve that recognition, and I wish I had more time to individually list the names of those who have been my heroes, so I hope you know who you are!!
The world needs more heroes, and I charge you all to become one, regardless of the paths you choose after today. Thank you, and congratulations to you all, WE MADE IT!!!!!