First student in University's history to give Dec. 13 Commencement address
Just before graduating on Dec. 13 from Roosevelt University, Danielle Smith of Mokena will give a speech of a lifetime, becoming the first student in the 68-year history of Roosevelt University to deliver a Commencement address to around 450 fellow graduating students.
When she approaches the podium on stage in the Auditorium Theatre, Smith, 21, who is a special education major and captain of Roosevelt’s Lady Lakers tennis team, plans to discuss the values she gained through her Roosevelt education.
“I believe that education is right for everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from,” said Smith, who is a 2010 graduate of Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort, a member of Roosevelt’s Franklin Honors Society for academic excellence and a recipient of the University’s Torch Award for Student Service.
“I hope to inspire my fellow students with a passion for education and social justice, which is the most important value I learned as a Roosevelt student,” said Smith, who was selected from 10 nominees to become the University’s first-ever student commencement speaker.
During seven semesters at Roosevelt, Smith consistently made the dean’s list and has been a student orientation leader, peer mentor and aide to the disabilities coordinator in the University’s Academic Success Center.
“We wanted to recognize and celebrate an outstanding student who best reflects the University’s mission, which is to turn out graduates who are not only academic achievers but who also show promise as socially conscious citizens and community leaders,” said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton.
Smith was selected in part based on a 1,000-word essay in which she discusses her experiences growing up in a “sheltered’ suburb. “I had no idea how diverse my city, my own backyard could be. I didn’t know about the problems that existed in the world or the things that needed to be done to change them. I had no idea I could become friends with so many different types of people and not see them by the color of their skin, their ethnicity or their sexual orientation, but as ‘hey, that’s my friend and I love them the way they are,’” she writes.
“Roosevelt has made me a more, well-rounded and informed person. I feel like I look at the world with such an open- mind, and now when I see a problem, I look at it as my responsibility, not as ‘oh that’s someone else’s job.’”
Active in Chicago's southwest suburbs, the Roosevelt student currently works on weekends as a server and manager in her mother’s Frankfort restaurant, Train Car Tommy’s, and is also a volunteer at Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park where she works with children with disabilities. She hopes to teach special education in the Chicago Public Schools after graduating.
The graduation begins at 11 a.m. Dec. 13 in the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago.