LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 15, 2022) — University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has selected two student representatives to speak at the UK December Commencement Ceremonies this Friday, Dec. 16, at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center.
The two student speakers are Alyssa Hargis and Princess Valencia.
Hargis, from Milford, Ohio, is a first-generation college student, graduating with dual bachelor's degrees in public health and environmental and sustainability studies. She is also a member of the Lewis Honors College. She will speak at the 10 a.m. ceremony.
During her time at UK, Hargis studied abroad in Santo Domingo, Ecuador, through UK’s Shoulder to Shoulder Global program, and interned with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. She served as president of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, a UK College of Arts and Sciences student ambassador, and Student Wellness Ambassador. She has also served on the UK Student Philanthropy Board.
In 2021 she received UK’s Emerging Leader Award, and this year she was named UK Undergraduate Intern of the Year, for her work at the Kentucky Environmental Public Health Tracking Network in the Kentucky Department of Public Health, where she led Kentucky’s participation in a nationwide Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pilot study to examine patterns in cold-related illness mortality.
“I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to pursue my education at a university that not only supports me as a student but led to my development as a person,” Hargis said. “The campus community at UK is unmatched with unwavering encouragement and comradery, and I know as a UK graduate, I am set up for success as I enter the next stage of my life.”
Hargis hopes her fellow graduates will hear her speech and reflect on their own experiences as students.
“I want them to remember the academic, professional and personal growth throughout their journey and to picture the future that they are just beginning to ‘build,’” she said. “I applied to be a speaker with the hopes that I would be able to express my appreciation for my transformative experience. If anything, I wanted the opportunity to formally say 'thank you' to all the leaders, faculty, staff and fellow peers who have shaped me into the person that I am today.”
Princess Valencia, from Georgetown, Kentucky, is graduating with a degree in English from the UK College of Arts and Sciences, and a minor in economics. She transferred to UK last year from Western Kentucky University and received the William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship.
"I have been a UK fan my entire life, and it was such an honor to finish my degree at my dream school," she said. "There are not enough words to describe how much I love the University of Kentucky. I feel confident and prepared for the future because of the people here who have provided me with so much knowledge and advice. I also have built friendships that will last me a lifetime. I will carry the tradition of UK with me forever."
An infielder, Valenica is a member of the UK softball team. She also spends her time as an instructor and mentor to younger athletes. Prior to transferring, Valencia was named to the 2020 All-Academic Team for Conference USA for excelling in the classroom.
Valencia celebrates her accomplishment with her family, including her grandparents who migrated to the U.S. to give their children brighter futures. As a result of this, Valencia has already stood on the UK Commencement stage once before — with her mother, who graduated 20 years ago.
“Nothing stood in their way to give their children the best lives’ possible,” she said. “So, thank you to my parents (and grandparents) who stopped at nothing to give me everything I needed to succeed.”
For more information about the December 2022 Commencement Ceremonies, visit https://commencement.uky.edu/december-2022.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.