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“You may have noticed that if one has money without brains, he cannot use it to his advantage; but if one has brains without money, they will enable him to live comfortably to the end of his days.” For this piece of wisdom, we can thank the Scarecrow, of “Wizard of Oz.”

Caitlin Gooch Buckley of Crab Orchard, Kentucky, student commencement speaker for Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Education on Dec 15, eloquently compared her college experience to the tale.

Buckley likened the room of graduates to the Scarecrow: just as he discovered that in the end, he had what he needed inside him all along, she declared that she and her fellow graduates found the same. “Eastern Kentucky University graduates,” she said, “tonight we wait on the precipice of greatness, of the grandest adventure yet.”

This grandest adventure, Buckley compared to the yellow brick road. She and her classmates stood at the smallest part of the spiral, moving forward. “EKU is where we found ourselves. It’s where we made ourselves.”

This was certainly the case for Buckley. After changing her major four times, she graduated from EKU with a bachelor’s degree in education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (P-12) and middle grades English (5-9), with a minor in American Sign Language and a 3.42 GPA. During her time at EKU, Buckley participated in KEA-SP, and the College of Education peer mentor program. It is not just a career that Buckley found here, but a family and language she loves.

Buckley and her classmates, she claimed, have navigated a dark forest, met friends and foes, and had a few bad apples thrown at them. Despite the dark parts of the journey, the destination proved worth it. “As Colonels, we came to this campus in search of answers,” she said. “We were lucky enough to find the College of Education, a magical place where questions lead us to adventure and a network of people like us, people who dream of change and search for ways to effect that change.”

Luckily, Buckley and her fellow graduates were not alone on the yellow brick road: “Just like Dorothy had the help of Glenda the Good Witch, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, we had the amazing staff, we’ve avoided catastrophe.”  She praised her advisers, professors and peers for leading her to this night.

Buckley admitted the road is at times winding and rough, but implored her classmates to find their own Oz. For her, Oz is the Kentucky School for the Deaf, where she has accepted a position teaching high school English. She plans to complete KTIP and return to EKU to pursue a master’s degree in literacy. Upon finding her Oz, she thanked her professors for pushing her beyond what she thought herself capable.

In her concluding remarks, Buckley acknowledged her new alma mater: “Here’s to EKU and the ways our lives have changed here. Here’s to brains and money – and using both to our advantage. Here’s to discovery and here’s to home. Thank you, Colonels, for helping me find the Emerald City.”

– by Madison Harris, Student Writer, EKU Communications and Brand Management