Commencement speaker chosen for 2014 graduation ceremony; Students compete to address graduating class

Alan Overwater peruses the library after winning the keynote speaker contest on May 19.Photo: Chris Piepgrass
Alan Overwater peruses the library after winning the keynote speaker contest on May 19.
Photo: Chris Piepgrass

Alan Overwater, a 36-year-old Lane student who will graduate with a 3.5 GPA and a transfer degree, will deliver the commencement speech at this year’s graduation after winning a May 16 contest to find the most qualified speaker. Overwater was attending Lane during a period of homelessness, from 2006 to 2009. He recently returned to Lane to finish his degree. “It’s hard to keep yourself motivated when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep and you haven’t had a meal in a while. There is a population of people, and I don’t know if it’s that they’re lost or if they’ve just given up, but you can’t surround yourself with that,” Overwater said. “I don’t want to sound too pompous or anything, but I think I earned the right to say my piece.” Overwater also congratulates the graduating class of 2014 for pushing themselves to achieve their dreams. “All these students put in the work it takes to get their certificates, degrees and di-
plomas,” Overwater said. “They didn’t just sit through class. They put work into it and they kept living their daily lives. Not a lot of people have the will and determination to do that.”Each speaker had to touch on four main points. They were to discuss the time and energy students put into attaining their individual degree, diploma or certification. The speaker also had to give examples of their own personal successes and offer inspiration for students, as well as recognize contributions that the staff, family and friends had in helping students succeed. Christina Lymath, the department coordinator of Student Life and Leadership Development, has been coordinating the graduation ceremony since 1998. “Classmates feel a sense of kinship when there is a student speaker who can identify with the daily struggles and positive experiences of student life,” Lymath said. “There are some truly inspiring student success stories, and when I hear them share theirs with the audience and fellow graduates, I am truly touched by their stories.” She dvertises the keynote speaker contest a term in advance to provide plenty of time for students to hear about the opportunity and prepare their speeches. This year, the deadline was extended by one week due to scarce participation. Six contestants turned in hard copies of their three- to five-minute speeches on May 14. Alena Vasquez will be graduating with a degree in psychology this June and was a participant in the keynote speaker contest. “I think I did about five drafts total,” Vasquez said. “There was a lot I want-
ed to say. It was challenging to fit it all into a five-minute speech.”