Elizabeth Catchmark described her emotion at Saturday evening’s Penn State graduation as “nervous.”
So nervous, she said, she wasn’t sure she could put a sentence together just minutes before being directed down an aisle to her seat with escorting faculty marshal Shirley Moody-Turner.
But when it was the Bellefonte native’s time, she took the podium and addressed her fellow graduates from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a crowded arena.
Catchmark was this year’s student keynote speaker, and one of 21 student marshals who represented departments in the college.
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She said each marshal was nominated to be the keynote speaker by a representative from the college.
“It’s an incredible honor to represent my community and college,” she said.
And the message to her peers, in a strong and fluid speech, was for people to empower one another.
“Our jobs in life, beyond what we do as a career, is to be uplifting to others,” she said. “That’s the message I want to get across — that among all the things you learn, and the skills and knowledge, you can be the person someone remembers.”
In 2013, Catchmark was valedictorian of her Bellefonte Area High School graduating class.
Now, as a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Honors Scholar, she graduated Saturday with Bachelor of Arts degrees in African-American studies, English, philosophy and women’s studies.
According to a report from the university, Catchmark worked as a writing tutor, a teaching assistant and a research assistant. She also taught in Washington, D.C., public schools as a Social Justice Fellow; served as a peer educator for Peers Helping Reaffirm, Educate and Empower; and was a grant writer for the Bellefonte Art Museum.
Next year, she plans to attend a doctoral program at the University of Maryland in English literature with an emphasis in African-American literature.
Penn State graduation numbers, according to the university:
Total universitywide graduates: 13,894
Associate’s degrees: 226
Master’s degrees: 1,590, including 1,037 from University Park campus
Law degrees: 262
Doctoral degrees: 244, including 227 from University Park campus
Medical degrees: 137
Undergraduate degrees from University Park campus: 8,500