Gwenyth Rosenkrantz, the recipient of the Class of 2021’s Student Achievement Award and the first openly transgender student to receive the annual award, delivered the commencement address for May 14’s virtual spring commencement ceremony.
Rosenkrantz is an improv performer, content creator, stand-up comedian and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. In their keynote speech for the UCCS Class of 2021, Rosenkrantz likened the college experience to climbing a mountain.
“UCCS felt like a mountain that I needed to climb,” they shared. “Students were hikers, trails were classes, and the peak served as a degree.”
Rosenkrantz, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human services from the College of Education, alluded to several degree changes they made in pursuit of deciding their future path. Ultimately, the work led Rosenkrantz to decide to blaze a trail for others – especially those facing difficulty in college – to follow.
“With no guide to aid me in my journey or to teach me how to interpret the map, I did a lot of wandering,” they said. “As I hiked up the steep trail, I came to forks in the road, where I changed my degree and embarked on a new path many times. There were dead ends, places where the trail was overgrown, false summits and thunderstorms that came out of nowhere that caused me to slip and fall.”
“As the moon began to rise above me and night covered the terrain, I couldn’t see anymore. That’s when I met my first flashlight person. They came running down the mountain to help me out when I was lost, and used their steady beam of light to guide me back to where I needed to be. ‘Can I borrow that?’ I asked. Instead, they gave me my own.”
“I could have used the flashlight to keep progressing uphill towards my degree,” Rosenkrantz concluded, “but instead I went backwards. I picked up the trash I’d passed on the trail, I arranged rocks in the dirt to serve as warning signs, and I helped find other hikers who got lost as well.”
Finally, Rosenkrantz told the graduates of the Class of 2021 that the skills they honed during their time at UCCS represent a flashlight that will light their way through even the darkest of times.
“We are now equipped with powerful skills of being able to conduct research, write persuasive arguments, and educate others so that we can make the branching and winding trails we come across in life more accessible and inclusive. These abilities create our flashlights,” Rosenkrantz said.
“When we approach our mountains in life, we will shine light on the problems we come across and do the work to help fix them. We will be able to spot those who need help, and aid them back onto the trails.”
Rosenkrantz concluded, “Look out onto the horizon at the top of your mountain and watch the sunset with the peace of understanding that you have the tools to face the coming twilight – and all of the nights to follow. Congratulations, Class of 2021, on earning your flashlight.”
Rosenkrantz is one of a record-setting 1,624 graduates in UCCS’ spring Class of 2021, the university’s largest graduating class in history. The virtual commencement ceremonies took place beginning on Friday, May 14 at 1 p.m. Tune in online. In addition, the May 17 Picture on the Plaza event will mark the first time in decades that UCCS offers an outdoor, on-campus graduation event. 570 graduates are signed up to walk down the pedestrian Spine, hear their names read and receive a diploma jacket and photos. Learn more.
The formal 2021 commencement ceremony for spring graduates is available on-demand via YouTube.