the Last Word

By Cristian Palma, B.S. ’16
Cristian Palma
 Carlo de Jesus

My journey on this campus has been a product of the Latin motto Sic Parvis Magna: Greatness from humble beginnings.

In my earlier years, my hero – my abuelita, my grandmother – taught me compassion, love, respect, integrity, honor and faith. She is my link between Guatemala and the United States and represents my humble beginnings. She taught me the importance of listening; communicating; connecting; and most importantly, the need to take pride in all that I do. It was the little things about my grandmother that inspired me the most as a young child: the lending of her hand, the laughs and jokes, the open-door policy, and my ultimate favorite: story time. All of my grandmother’s stories had one common theme ... she told me, “Cristian, siempre pagalo adelante.” Cristian, always pay it forward.

As a high-school student, college was never in my vocabulary. I listened to the conversations of my peers and admired their academic excellence, and developed the hunger necessary to learn and succeed. When I received my first acceptance letter, I was thrilled. I looked at my mom and said, “I’m going to college!”

“But Cristian, how much is it going to cost?” she asked. My parents feared they wouldn’t be able to afford sending me away to college.

“Mom, I’ll find a way. I promise. I’ll find a way. I promise.

Cristian and his grandmother Rosa Alvina Duarte

Attending open house was the first time not only for me, but for my family, to set foot on a college campus. I promised my family that I was going to find a way, and I can proudly say I found it at the University at Albany. To all my mentors, friends, faculty and staff, alumni, and the Educational Opportunities Program, I thank you all! I’m now passing the torch to my younger brother, Michael, who will continue the Palma legacy at UAlbany this fall.

On behalf of my grandmother, I ask that you remember to always pay it forward: beyond the classroom; beyond your neighborhood; and most importantly, beyond the limits you place on yourselves.

After all, the meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Now and forever, we are Great Danes!

Cristian Palma graduated summa cum laude last May with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. He is an ad sales associate at NBCUniversal Media, LLC, New York City.

View Palma’s entire undergraduate commencement speech.