Batavia, NY- When State Senator Catharine Young was just 14 years old, a fire set by an arsonist destroyed the hay-filled barn on her family’s Livingston County farm. During her commencement address Sunday at Genesee Community College, Young talked about how struggles like that shape who we are. She inspired students to work hard and realize that failure often precedes success. Young spoke before a crowd of about 700 students and their families and friends. In all, Genesee Community College expects to confer some 900 degrees and certificates to students who completed studies in January and May 2013 and August 2012. Final numbers won’t be available until early June.
Senator Young is the second oldest of six children. After the fire, she got a job at a restaurant in town to help her family. By age 16, she was a supervisor and at 18 she was asked to become a manager. She turned down the job because “You see, I was determined to go to college.” She worked three jobs to earn her degree in mass communication from St. Bonaventure University. “You have adopted the right attitude by valuing higher education and understanding that what you have learned at GCC opens a world of opportunities to you,” she said.
Young started out as a newspaper reporter in Rochester. To help make ends meet, she took a job cleaning offices downtown at night. “I remember one morning at about 1 a.m. crying into a toilet bowl that I was scouring. I thought ‘I went to four years of college for this?’ But those type of experiences build character,” she told the graduates.
Now a senator representing New York’s 57th District, the Olean resident had served in the State Assembly from 1999-2005, when she was elected to the State Senate. Prior to that, she was a member of the Cattaraugus County Legislature and the Cattaraugus County Board of Health. She is passionate about public service. “What I can tell you is that in whatever you choose to do, you will find true happiness if, in some way, you devote yourself to serving others,” she told the graduates. “Serving others means rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in your community. It means getting off the sidelines, it means being a doer, and not a critic. It means contributing to a cause larger than you.”
Young told the graduates she hopes they have opportunities to fail, because in doing so one learns to appreciate success, something she applauded the graduates for achieving on the occasion of their commencement. “I promise you graduates that at times you too will fail. You too will face overwhelming obstacles and terrible odds. Most of you probably already have. And look where it got you. Here you are today, a success. Despite all the trials and tribulations, you are a success. Congratulations.”
For more information, contact Rick Ensman, Jr., Director of Development and External Affairs at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6234, or via email: RGEnsman@genesee.edu.
# # #
A photo of Sen. Young speaking at GCC Commencement is available here: