On Thursday, June 13, 2019, a group of 40 Alfie Scholars from all four cohorts, Alfie Team Members, families, and guests gathered to celebrate the graduating 2017 Cohort. Four members of this cohort are receiving their Bachelor’s degrees in Nursing, two in Diagnostic Ultrasound, one in Civil Engineering, one in Electrical Engineering, one in International Studies, and one in Psychology. All are leading for civility in their communities and professions.
In attendance to celebrate were members from the first Alfies 2016 cohort: Nizama Djudrija (Criminal Justice), Pa Ousman Jobe (Finance), Julie Mariga (Nursing), Gabriel Narvaez (Sociology); members for the rising Alfie Senior 2018 Cohort: Chhavi Mehra (Journalism), Jasmina “Mina” Omerovic (Mechanical Engineering), Cesar Rios III (Nursing), Stephanie Sanchez (Nursing), Chloe Zabrek (Accounting),Yue Zhang (Accounting), members from the entering Alfie Junior 2019 Cohort: Haley Cummins (Communications), and Richard Pallangyo (Computer Science), and Alfie Team members Natalie Cisneros, Carol Cochran, Nathan Colaner, Genevieve Gieger, Paula Lustbader, Scott Petit, Jeff Philpott, and Brendan Taga.
Alfie Program Director Carol Cochran opened the program by addressing the cohort: “We are here to talk about the legacy that you have helped to create at Seattle University as an Alfie Scholar. You have helped to elevate the name Alfie. You have not only been Civility Leaders in and outside of the classroom, but also you have been leaders in your families and in your communities. Your hard work and dedication are not only changing your life but the course of many lives. You may have inspired someone you do not know to go after their dreams. It has been our privilege to accompany you on your path.” She then had the cohort stand and said, “I want all of us to look at our honorees this evening. Study their faces, get to know their names. This evening will not be the last time you hear about them. These Scholars are the hope and the future of their communities, our city, our state, and at this very moment, the hope of our nation. These ladies and gentlemen are our Leaders of Civility. Our Agents of Change.”
Alfie Team Member Jeff Philpott thanked the cohort and said it has been a joy and privilege to work with the Scholars; their motivation, academic excellence, and their commitment to civility inspires everyone.
“Tonight we celebrate the realization of mutual dreams,” said Alfie Founder and Executive Director Paula Lustbader. “Your dreams were to make a difference in your worlds by obtaining your bachelor's degree, to enter a profession, to change your family circumstances, to change your lives in some ways, and to change the communities in which you live and in which you work. Our dream was to cultivate leaders who are going to change the world by being civil, by creating opportunities to engage with other people in our collective and shared humanity to come up with solutions to these seemingly intractable challenges and problems that face our world and that face our country. And when we asked you to become leaders for civility, we had no idea what genies we let out of the bottle. Each of you have exceeded our dreams.”
Lustbader explained that leaders for civility lead in existing formal leadership roles by creating new ones. Others lead informally wherever the opportunity arises to connect and engage in meaningful dialogue with others. She went on to give examples of the formal leadership roles members of this cohort assumed on campus including Student Body President, leaders in honor and professional societies, leaders in class. She then gave examples where they founded new organizations to serve unmet needs such as the Scarlet Group to advocate for undocumented students on campus, the Vegan Society, and the SU Social, Legal, and Moral Justice Group. And she gave examples where members of this cohort have led for civility in their daily lives by standing up to injustice with confidence and respect, by staying connected to their humanness and vulnerability, and by supporting each other, others in their communities, and strangers.
Lustbader called the cohort and team members to gather in a circle one last time to embrace and solidify the profound bond they now share. As they returned to their seats, they all hugged each other in emotional and cheerful and tearful embraces.
Once they returned to their seats, Lustbader thanked her father, Al Lustbader, for his vision and generosity in funding this program, Carol, the team members, the families, and all the Alfies. “And as you go forward, I hope that you remain committed to your quest, to remain civil, to be leaders formally and informally, to look for those opportunities to find those areas where we connect with our shared humanity to influence others towards a greater good. And I encourage you to stay protected when necessary but when possible to continue to lean into your own vulnerability. That's where you can find your greatest truth. And that's where lie the seeds of connection to others. And as you lean in, never forget that you are not alone. You’ve got this whole Alfie family. We’ve got your back; we’ve got you. Thank you for making my dreams come true.”
Cochran then called each member of the 2017 Cohort up, and Lustbader and Alumnus Pa Ousman Jobe placed their Alfie’s Stole around their shoulder.
After he thanked the children for sharing their Alfie Scholar parents with us while they worked toward their degree, Alfie Alumnus Gabriel Narvaez spoke directly to the graduating Scholars. Mix your academic expertise and credentials with “the life experiences you have, you are a powerful force to be reckoned with. You possess the resources and power that others seek, so be intentional with how you share your gifts…Think big, think long-term, and then go for it. And when you do go for it, know that the Alfie family is always here for you, that we are always here for each other.”
It was an evening full of emotion and a sense of accomplishment. The families and guests were full of joy and pride. The Alfie Team was beaming. And the Alfie Scholars glistened with tears on their cheeks, giggled with each other, and glowed.