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Germanna's second fall commencement begins with moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
At the college's fall graduation Monday night, Anita Newhouse said Germanna opens the door to higher education.
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As the first in her family to attend college, Newhouse said she feels she's increased the odds that her daughters will follow in her footsteps.
She hopes they will recognize the importance of education and pursue their dreams, not letting anything hold them back.
Student speaker Sarida Saadeh shared a similar story. At age 35 and with seven children to raise, Saadeh never expected her dream of college could be realized.
But two years ago she started on that journey.
She credited Germanna's supportive staff and unique programming with enabling her to make it through.
"With its flexible schedule and its eagerness to see its students succeed, it seemed like a match made in heaven," Saadeh told the Expo Center crowd.
She said she sometimes had "a book in one hand and a thermometer in the other" and at one point thought of giving up.
But then a family crisis jolted her.
She watched as her 17-year-old nephew battled cancer without ever giving up or showing negativity.
He didn't win that battle but left an indelible mark on her.
"I knew after that I had to see my college dream through," she said.
Saadeh is now taking classes at UMW and hopes to become an English teacher.
The Culpeper resident concluded her remarks with words of inspiration from a commencement speech Winston Churchill gave at his prep school in 1941.
"Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense."
That was her exhortation to her fellow graduates.
"Germanna has given us a bridge to expand our life," she said. "But it is our responsibility to walk over it."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972