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Frances “Frankie” Kerkhof, of Oshkosh, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, minoring in social justice and Spanish, and earning indigenous studies and Global Scholar certificates. Here are their prepared remarks from Saturday’s commencement ceremony: 

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Good morning! I want to extend a warm welcome to all the friends, faculty, alums, guests, and of course, the resilient class of 2024.

Frankie Kerkhof

It is a great honor to share this momentous day with you all.

My name is Frankie Kerkhof, and I am humbled to have the privilege to commemorate the incredible accomplishments of the class of 2024! I am beyond excited to serve as a bridge that connects the ending of a unique stage in our lives to the endless possibilities that our future holds.

College is a place of self-discovery, immense change, and a time to find your voice and community. The experiences of the 2024 graduating class are no different. As I stand here today, I am reminded of the challenges and successes that have shaped us. Starting our college experiences during a global pandemic was a unique and shared struggle, and learning to adapt to a constantly changing environment became a shared strength. Despite the uncertainties and disruptions, we have shown remarkable perseverance, continuing our studies, supporting each other, and finding innovative ways to stay connected. This road to graduation has been a collective effort, a testament to our determination; we are living proof of how strong humans can be.

As for this human, my story is not incredibly unique. Like many kids, I felt like there was an invisible barrier between me and the rest of the world. But, when I came to UWO, I was excited about the opportunities to try new things, meet new people, and find my place in the world. I was searching for a sign that I belonged, to find a place to connect with people who cared and supported each other no matter who they are or how they identify. Like many others in this room, UWO provided built-in support systems everywhere we turned: in class, through student organizations, athletics, and, of course, through the support of our peers. In those communities, we found our voices and sense of belonging.

UWO has been a pivotal point in all our lives, a space for people to learn, grow, and improve. It is not just an educational institution but a community where people feel at home, make lifelong connections, discover their passions, and transform the world around them. Thanks to the professors, staff, and students at UW Oshkosh, for the first time in my life I felt entirely accepted by those around me. I was inspired to be a better version of myself. I strived to be a resource for students and create a safe space for people to be themselves. I did the last thing I ever thought I would do: I joined student government and discovered the power of a collective voice and community as students and as human beings. I had the privilege to see students stand up for what they believed in. This sense of acceptance and support is not just my story but the story of our UWO community, a community that has shaped me into the person I am today.

There are many experiences and opportunities I never thought I would have accomplished if not for a faculty or staff member who opened doors for me and encouraged me to take first steps and to keep going. I met some of the most caring and selfless humans in the anthropology department, who taught me to view humanity holistically, to understand humans in their full contexts, and implement those skills in everything that I do. I had the honor of working alongside the most incredibly dedicated and compassionate university staff, who set excellent examples for what kind of person I aspire to be. I also met some of the most amazing and inspiring people who continually challenged me, supported me, and pushed me to do and be better. I am forever in their debt for showing me just the slightest bit of kindness. Without their empathy or encouragement, I would not be standing before you all today. Graduates, I urge you all to think of somebody who made your experience at UWO special and encouraged you to do your best.

This time of celebration and commemoration is more significant than just “you” or “me,” but in this moment, we are a collective “us” acknowledging our unified achievement. We have the strength, resilience, and courage to overcome any obstacle that comes our way. Let’s be proud of what we have accomplished; wherever we are headed, we will tackle any obstacle with dignity and humility.

It is my immense honor to celebrate our outstanding achievements; let’s be the bridge to a better and brighter tomorrow. Here’s to the class of 2024!