Jayseana Jackson '24 Delivers Student Address to College of Arts & Sciences

May 19, 2024
Jayseana Jackson

We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. Nelson Mandela.

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed faculty, proud parents, family members, and friends, and, of course, the graduating class of 2024, I am deeply honored to stand before you today as your commencement speaker.

To the graduating class, to the elite employees I want to start by congratulating each and every one of you on this tremendous achievement. Today, we gather here to celebrate not only the completion of your academic studies but also the culmination of all the hard work, dedication, and perseverance you have displayed throughout your educational journey. As we embark on this new chapter of your lives, I would like to share some thoughts and advice to inspire and guide you as you go out into the world and make your mark.

My name is Jayseana Jackson, a name made up with the combination of both my parents' names Jay and Shon. Surprisingly enough I am not a combination of either of them. I was raised by a single mother of 11 in the lower East Side of Buffalo. Growing up on the east side of Buffalo, there were not many opportunities to see a life beyond my neighborhood and in the lives of the people that were around me. The only person I seen trying to be better in my neighborhood was my older sister who would give up anything to make sure all of us were okay. Even seeing my mom struggling trying to make a way for all of her children was not easy to cope with. I knew I had to be different. I knew I had to be better. My mom always encouraged me to shine my light that I am her sunshine, but she was my light.

I worked hard all throughout high school because I knew that I would need to get a scholarship. My mom always told us from a young age that she will not be able to help us pay for college, so I had to find a new way. So I found a mentor who helped me see beyond everything that I have ever known. We meet everyday afterschool at my church to work on my writing, reading, and even my communication skills. I got into Canisius, my top choice school. He has always been there for me. He is the only father I ever known, he is my light.

My Canisius university degree means to me meeting people like my philosophy professor Dr Forest that taught me to question everything that I know and to show people that I am more than meets the eye. My degree means to me to have met people like my art professors Yvonne Widenor that teaches me to find beauty in everything even in my struggle. My Canisius university degree means to me to meet my best friends like Jahare and Juli that shows me the real meaning of friendship. They are my light. My Canisius university degree allows me to see that light, to escape the stereotype, and to be more. It allows me most of all to be the first in my family with a college degree and to show my younger siblings that we are not our past, or who we used to be, but we are who we are going to be. I am there light.

Class of 2024 we have the capability to achieve our greatest happiness. My greatest happiness is being accepted into law school this spring. We have done it already despite not having a highschool graduation or prom, and surviving a whole pandemic we have made it to the end. Congrats to us. 

We all have our own lives, struggles and reasons to be here but we do share one thing: we are griffs. As griffs we survive and through Jesuit values set the world on fire! As you go on to this new chapter of your lives, I challenge you to seek out new opportunities and to take risks. Don't be afraid to fail, but instead, learn from your failures and use them as stepping stones to success. Just as people have been the light for you, be the light to someone else and we will have a bright future.