“I am an unconventional, first-generation student who reentered the academic scene after 13 years. My daughter, Winston, is the reason for my journey here. Winston is my only child, who passed away in the spring of 2019. While alongside her on these very grounds, a voice told me: You must go back to school. And now, three years later, I’m graduating and the Winston Sheri Wallingford Memorial Endowment has been established as a first-of-its-kind scholarship at the University of Utah to support students who have endured the death of a child or sibling.
We all walk unique journeys. In Sanskrit, the phrase “sat nam” recognizes the truth in each of us. Part of my truth is I am a mother, a teacher, a survivor and a student of the human experience who believes our life stories are delicate yet complex specks of sand in this vastness we call the universe.
During my studies as a family, community and human development major, I was encouraged to reflect on my lifespan: my past, present and future. This kind of reflection runs deep and, at times, proves uncomfortable. Reflection is also a catalyst for transformative learning. Transformation is this funny creature that develops in cringy, vulnerable moments. Transformation is life.
In navigating the mundane, rising beyond challenge, persevering, fostering fortitude and reveling in success, we entered this institution from one version of existence and transformed as we traveled through some incredibly trying times. Among many matters, COVID highlighted our mortality and commonality in grief. In concluding our endeavors here, we find ourselves in a completely different domain, yet the world remains heartbreaking, inspiring, and full of choices. May we spread light through our words and actions, pausing to consider our humanity and how we are showing up.
My university education confirmed that how I show up matters. By following my intuition, listening, refraining from assumptions and paying energy forward, I generate room for a more compassionate culture. I learned it is critical to remember we never know the battles others are enduring.
I learned to ask for help when I could not fathom another day. I learned innovating from integrity, speaking up, taking risks, branching out to build relationships, making decisions from abundance rather than fear, and creating space for silence and grand ideas.
As graduates from the U, we are fortunate. We are both blessed and carry with us a duty to imagine limitlessly. May we maintain an interdisciplinary view as we transition to alumni. May we hold grace for ourselves, balancing the understanding that dreams and goals may change with the insight that we possess the ability to manifest greatness. My education here served as an exercise of circling back to self, my most authentic self. I settled into knowing there is only one me, just as there is only one you, a unique spot for each of us, carved out for a specific purpose. By and large, we are the author of our story, so it is up to us to look at what we are asking of ourselves, life and our community.“
—Destiny Wallingford, Class of 2022, B.S. in Family, Community and Human Development, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences