Read Sami Atassi’s Address to the Class of 2024

Sami Atassi ’24 was selected to address the Class of 2024 at the Park Scholarships Commencement on Thursday, May 2. The ceremony took place at the Roy and Dorothy Park Alumni Center. Sami is from Clemmons, NC, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Human Biology. Read his speech here.

As I approach this podium, I cannot help but think of my high school graduation four years ago when, as class president, I recorded a speech to be later played on Zoom. 

I stood in my backyard wearing my cap and gown. With the sharp rays of the sun beaming, birds chirping, and bugs buzzing, I awkwardly talked to my phone, which stood high on a tripod. Later, I learned that my mom watched me from the kitchen window and took pictures.

Let’s take in this moment. For the past four years, we have been going full throttle and enduring much of what the world has thrown at us. Today, we are sitting here all together in the same room. Let us realize how lucky we are to be here. 

Four years ago, this reality would have been a dream. In fact, being a Park Scholar seemed out of this world. Let us acknowledge how far we have come. 

Sami giving his address at Park Commencement for the Class of 2024
(left to right) Suzie Goodell, Sami Atassi ’24, Kanton Reynolds

I vividly remember walking into Talley for the first time ever during finalist weekend and being left in awe. I remember meeting some of you, unaware that we were in together for a life-changing ride full of unexpected ups and downs. 

It’s easy to take it all for granted and overlook appreciating what we all have.

We have ALL doubted ourselves. Perhaps some of you – like in finalist weekend – STILL feel you don’t belong here. Maybe you think you got that job offer or got admitted to grad school by mistake. Maybe you still have not heard back. Maybe you got rejected. Perhaps you’re worried and scared that everything is about to change.

All of that could not be more valid—we’re all human. I don’t know about you, but personally, I have felt every possible emotion in the last few weeks: excitement, worry, sadness, anxiety, and nostalgia. I keep asking myself, HOW did it all go by so fast? 

It feels like yesterday when, twelve years ago, I landed in this country for the first time with my lovely family, who are sitting over there. I was filled with anxiety and fear of an unknown future. In seventh grade, I got an award for the most improved in my ESL class– English as a Second Language. But to this day, I struggle with constant insecurity and self-doubt. Being around you all reminds me of what I have achieved and will achieve, what we ALL will achieve. 

Take a second and consider, since we sat on Zoom for freshman retreat, the number of people that have entered your life and the number of lives you have touched. Consider how much you’ve done and associated with here at NC State. 

Speaking for myself, I will admit I took on too many things and kept telling myself to do less. Well, clearly I’m doing something wrong. I mean – even one day before I graduate, I still applied to take on an extra assignment and write this speech.

Perhaps it’s hard to keep track of it all because we’ve done so much.

However, there is one aspect that I will NEVER forget. When I reflect on Park fifty days or fifty years from now, I will never forget about the people. 

Oh, the people. Nothing has been more fulfilling and exciting than walking around campus and running into friends and peers, especially the people sitting in this room.

The Class of 2024 at their Freshman Retreat
A few members of the Class of 2024 at Senior Retreat

I know we often complain about getting off to a bumpy start. We missed out on many things. To name a couple, we were kicked off campus and robbed of some of the Park experiences we excitedly anticipated. YET still, I could not be more fond of the memories I have formed with you all. 

Seriously, standing here and looking at each and every one of you, I am filled with gratitude and honor to call you my friends. I genuinely love you all so much.

Can I tell you a secret? I never shared this to avoid sounding like a nerd, but I have loved Park Block. (For the parents, this was our Park class, where we met every Wednesday for the past four years.) I loved it. I looked forward to it weekly, to have that sacred time to see you and disconnect from the outside noise the world constantly threw at us.

You all are so talented, passionate, and RESILIENT, and I am honored to have you in my life. 

On resilience, we should appreciate what we have gotten through. We were kicked off campus after just nine days of freshman year. We survived the pandemic, the 2020 election, and the unprecedented mental health crisis, not to mention everything else we experience in our own lives. Oh, I can’t forget that we also survived one more thing: the senior retreat. 

A few members of the Class of 2024 at Commencement
The Class of 2024’s official class portrait

The bond we’ve formed through adversity is like no other.

We made it. We survived. We are here together, with it all behind us. No matter what the world threw at us, we got back up repeatedly, even though, at times, it seemed impossible. No matter what is going on, this should always motivate you to give yourself grace and to have hope.

I sense that life will not slow down when we leave NC State. I have a feeling it will only go faster and faster. We will look back at THIS day just like we now look back at finalist weekend and freshman retreat—just a speck in time. 

Like we did four years ago, we are about to turn the page again into the unknown. 

What is the point of going through this journey if we don’t at least preserve the relationships we made and the people we met? 

When you are alone, scared, or feeling unworthy, know that you have all of US behind you. When you are lost, you should KNOW where to go. We are here for each other as a reminder of what we went through and how resilient we are. 

Embrace that feeling that you don’t know what is going to happen. That change is constant.

We will grow, move on, and adapt. But we cannot forget how much we have in common and the value of having each other’s backs. I won’t stand here and tell you to be best friends with the entire class for life. But I challenge all of us to embrace and maintain the bonds you and I have built with some of the people in this room. 

As I conclude, I want to remind you of the backbone that brought us together — scholarship, leadership, service, and character. As we progress, remember that these four pillars rise much higher than our undergraduate story and carry them as an asset in our lives. I challenge all of us to maintain our utmost scholarship, leadership, service, and character as we navigate this world’s challenges, conflicts, disagreements, and tests. I challenge you to think critically and make your voice heard. 

Well, you all have been there for me, and I want us to be there for each other for life because we are THE CLASS OF 2024 PARK SCHOLARS — a shared identity that I could not be more excited or proud to embrace for life. Thank you!