Fear. It is an emotion most graduates experience, whether it's associated with leaving a comfort zone or facing the unknown. It's also the emotion that will motivate valedictorian Heidi Marsh as she addresses the 2012 Union College graduating class.
Marsh plans to embrace her fears while telling fellow graduates that it is OK to be afraid, because sometimes that fear can help you.
The senior, who will receive a Bachelor of Arts in English with a 3.88 GPA, said that the fear of not knowing is something she has experienced her whole life. Now, as she faces yet another milestone in earning her college degree, she sees that fear again. This time, however, she sees it in a different light.
"Fear is a powerful thing, and we only have two choices: succumb to our fears and give up, or take them in stride and use them as fuel in life's journey," Marsh said.
This lesson is one she wants to communicate to fellow graduates, as well as the Union community.
"I've been thinking about my graduation speech," Marsh said. "I've been thinking a lot about fear, because I'm really afraid, and I think everyone else is a little bit afraid too. Union as a whole may even be a little bit afraid, with all the different changes that are going on right now."
After graduation, Marsh has big plans in mind. She will attend graduate school at either the University of Louisville or East Tennessee State University. While there, she will earn a master's degree in English literature before pursuing a Ph.D. so she can one day teach at the college level.
As she looks forward to those plans, Marsh knows that while she may be scared to start a new chapter in her life, she has to take heed of her own message and use that fear to her advantage.
"At the end of the day, you only have yourself to answer to," Marsh said. "I don't know that I would feel satisfied knowing that I held myself back from doing something great because I was scared of what might happen as a result."