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2024 - Melia Delaney: It was ECC that helped me make that difference

Tags: Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/21/2024
Melia Delaney, student speaker for the Spring 2024 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony

Melia Delaney, student speaker for the Spring 2024 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony

Let's give another round of applause for our graduates here today! All that work and effort to bring each and every one of us here. It's the work of these 200-plus students that fills this space, with so many more watching online right now. Wow. Well, this better be a good speech. Who knew after being so busy with nursing school, I’d agree to give myself even more work?

On that note, thank you so much, Peggy, for nominating me, John, for making this possible—it's just an unbelievable honor. I mean, I’m not special—I’m just going back to school, responding to incentives, the same as anyone: incentives in the world and in our hearts. Of course, there's the money—we're all here to get real jobs and advance careers right away through our degrees and certificates. I think it's more than that, though.

I graduated from high school in 2020, and my story wouldn't be the same without the pandemic. Let’s take a moment to remember the way the pandemic has affected each of us, all those who aren't with us here today. When opportunities dry up, it forces us to decide who we are and who we will be. Because of COVID and the choice to live as myself, my imagined future faded away, and instead, I did what I thought might make a difference when it really mattered. I think each of us has that incentive somewhere, as evidenced by our presence here today.

It was the bravery of health care workers in the face of terrifying shortages and unprecedented suffering that inspired me to become an EMT. I wanted to be a caring, human presence for people on the worst days of their lives. Although none of us working in health care will ever know the full impact of what we do, it's that possibility that drives us. When I was ready to go back to school and become a nurse, I wanted to see that difference in the care of people like myself.

I am the first openly trans person graduating from my nursing program. Working in health care, even for a short time, you see that difference, you see who gets treated a certain way, and who gets treated differently. My first time telling a nurse I was trans, I was met with, “Oh, that’s just a fad,” and that was in a professional capacity during my EMS clinical. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve witnessed this prejudice among nursing professionals time and time again. People trust their nurses with their lives, so nonjudgmental care should always be non-negotiable. Eventually, I decided that if I was going to make a career in health care, I had no choice but to find some way to change things.

It was ECC that helped me make that difference. I was able to sit down one-on-one with my first-semester instructor and help her write a case study based on my real experiences as a trans health care professional. This past semester, after talking with one of my instructors, she was able to help introduce a brand new simulation lab experience for the care of a transgender patient so graduates of our program can practice the ability to speak up and advocate for their patients when it matters most.

During our time here at ECC, we each have learned valuable lessons about our world and ourselves. I may have made my small difference here, but it is the work of each and every one of us that will create our legacy. Once you exit the doors of this campus, each one of you here today will face challenges that you are uniquely unprepared for. But in that, I believe you will find the place where your difference will be made. No matter who it is you are here for today, for yourself or the people you love, I know you can find a reason to make that difference happen. So I say: go out, find that place. Let yourself imagine that better world into being. Thank you.

Melia Delaney '24

Associate of Applied Science – Nursing

St. Charles, Ill.

 

Visit elgin.edu/graduates for more graduate stories.