Amanda Chen '21, Jackson Award Winner, gives valedictory address

"With making change, however, the results are not consistent, but the efforts have to be." Amanda Chen '21, the Student Wellness Center's Jackson Award winner, shared what she's learned through her time at Dartmouth and starting the Mental Health Union at Dartmouth's Commencement.

Family, friends, honored guests, and of course, fellow members of the class of 2021, I am so grateful that we could all be here together to share this moment. In truth, this was a really hard speech for me to write, because no words can capture the loss that we experienced this past year. I'm sorry that I don't have the language to convey everything we're feeling today. We are still trying to make sense of all that has happened during the pandemic, as we try to figure out what life will look like after graduation.

I can only start by reflecting sincerely about my time at Dartmouth, and the nature of change. In the last four years, I feel as though I lived two lives: one as a student, and one as a mental health advocate, where I spent countless hours founding the Dartmouth Mental Health Student Union and its various programs. And I've realized some striking differences between the two. As students, the expectations are set for us. Success is outlined in course syllabi, research titles, and awards. We receive constant feedback and are rewarded regularly for our efforts. And if we didn't like a particular result, we would wait out this 10-week period for the next one.

In my mental health work, it was the exact opposite. Nothing was predictable. I spent a lot of time in meetings for results that were not guaranteed. There was a good chance that after all of my efforts, nothing would happen, for reasons likely outside of my control. Despite this, I had no choice but to keep showing up, if I wanted a chance at making real change. As a student, you can work on assignments inconsistently or last-minute, and still get regular results. With making change, however, the results are not consistent, but the efforts have to be.


Continue reading or watch the video here: Amanda Chen '21 Valedictory