A Masury woman delivered the student address at Penn State-Shenango’s fall commencement on Dec. 20, capping her 17-year odyssey to get a four-year degree.
Miranda Hayes, who received her degree in human development and family studies, began her journey at Penn State in 2002, after graduating from high school. She withdrew after one year, but started classes anew in 2015 as a non-traditional student and mother of a little girl. Hayes had to leave school again after the death of her father, but returned in the fall of 2017, giving birth to her second child, a boy, along the way.
Hayes was named to the Dean’s List every year after her return to campus in 2015, received the Osher Re-entry Scholarship, and volunteered at the Nittany Nook, the campus food pantry.
“I am certain that many of your journeys have not been easy,” Hayes told the graduating class. “I know mine sure wasn’t. I often thought that I would never see this day.”
When students embark on a journey to receive a degree, “we don’t often think about what our personal lives might throw our way at the same time,” Hayes said.
promo“We know that it will be a lot of studying, paper-writing and presenting,” she said. “But, we don’t often think about what else might come up that could make being a student difficult. The good thing about those difficulties, though, is that they help us to grow, and it is within that growth that we demonstrate our grit and resilience.”
Hayes said she frequently relied on her perseverance and drive to overcome obstacles, but knows that that is only part of her story.
She looked to her faith in God, felt the support of her family and friends, and found a community within Penn State-Shenango that was just what she needed, she said, adding that she knows that some of those who influenced her had their own issues to deal with.
“I do not believe that it was happenstance that I ended back up on this campus after a 12-year hiatus during this chapter of my life,” Hayes said. “I was meant to be here, to be supported by and cheered on by those who ended up being a major part of my educational journey.”
Those cheering her on were not only her teachers, and fellow students, but also the campus staff members.
“The fact that you can have so much on your shoulders, yet, still take time to connect with students and help them when needed is a testament to your kind and caring hearts,” Hayes said.
By participating in the Penn State community, “My learning here has not only been academic in nature, but personal, too,” she said. “I have grown so much as a result of my time here, and I am better because of it.”
Hayes plans to attend graduate school to study sociology and hopes to find one that has the same sense of community as Penn State-Shenango, but added, “I know in my heart that no place will ever compare to Penn State-Shenango. The small campus with a big heart has forever etched a place in mine.”