Photo courtesy of Matthew Miller

When we think about what it means to be a Georgia Tech student, there are a few words that commonly come to mind: we’re often described as hard-working, creative, nerdy (but proudly so), and, of course, smart.

When I think back to the first time I felt that I had truly understood what it meant to be part of the Yellow Jacket family, I think back to my first finals week. I was cooped up in one of the most coveted study spaces on campus (referencing, of course, the booths on the 3rd floor of Clough). My friend and I were studying like hell to prepare for our first Tech final, but when we had paused to briefly rest our eyes, we both ended up falling fast asleep. We woke up around 5 in the morning the day of our exam, very dazed, but also pleasantly surprised. In front of us we saw two cups of hot Starbucks coffee and a line of colorful post-it notes, encouraging us to keep our strength and reminding us that it’s okay to rest and take of ourselves.

Stories like this aren’t as rare as you’d imagine here at Tech. Whether it be by lending a hand on complex problems or a listening ear during rough times in the semester, one of the best parts about being a Yellow Jacket is being part of a community that supports and uplifts one another. Yes, we’re hard working. Yes, we’re nerdy. And yes, we’re smart – but we’re also compassionate.

It’s the compassion that I saw from my first finals week with the two cups of coffee and a pile of post-it notes.

It’s the compassion that we in the Yellow Jacket community have seen as the hallmark of so many of our Tech traditions.

It’s when faculty and staff stay up at midnight to serve us breakfast before exams.

It’s when the band lights up campus with tunes from our fight song during Midnight Bud.

It’s when hundreds of families host international students during Thanksgiving to give them a home away from home.

We’re preparing to graduate from a school whose undergraduate engineering programs rank consistently in the top 10 across the nation, whose cutting-edge research helped discover how to detect Gravitational Waves and build the Ironman suit. But, beyond this, we are also a school that brings adorable puppies out to Tech Green during finals and has security guards and cafe baristas who remember our names and, embarrassingly, sometimes even our orders.

And as we walk across the stage this December, as we begin to venture into new communities and new experiences, I hope we can always remember these moments because they have taught us that our ability to share a deep sense of compassion and humanity is an invaluable part of our success both here and beyond.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! See you at the finish line!