--- Issued May 27, 2014

In this spring's edition of News & Views, HACE executive Director John Horan recognizes one of our own for being a role model for "self-sufficiency through education" -- the title of the spring 2014 issue's commentary -- writing:

"I attended Penn State Behrend’s graduation ceremony this month, where current public housing resident Veronica Lorya gave the farewell address to 500 other graduates. Veronica came to Erie as a refugee from Sudan with her mother and five siblings. Her father had died when she was a one year old. Her mother, Yolanda Lorya,  was determined to forge a better life for her children in her adopted country through education.Veronica and several of her siblings have received the Housing Authority’s Louis J. Tullio college scholarship and have worked in our college-bound summer internship program. (Read the full text of Veronica’s speech below.) Veronica received her degree in International Business and Marketing. She is Mrs. Lorya’s youngest child and the last of six children to earn a college degree. Congratulations to Mrs. Lorya and to all our graduates and to their parents who understand that education is the ticket out of public housing."



Veronica Lorya in 2009, when she won the Louis J. Tullio college scholarship award.

Lorya's address is quoted in its entirety, below:

As this commencement comes to a close and we get ready to part our ways, I would like to take a brief moment and journey to the past.

As a child living in Kenya, I always had fascination with flying, so I thought an interesting way to briefly look back on our special moments together would be through an imaginary airplane ride.

As your pilot I would like to welcome you all again and thank you for flying with me as we journey to the past. Please turn off all electronic devices; place your tray tables in an upright position, the emergency exits can be found to your left and right, your seat may be used as a floating device, and for your safety, please fasten your seatbelts as we prepare for takeoff.

As we lift off and elevate towards the desired cabin pressure, we remember our   freshman year.

As students new to the Penn State Behrend community, individually we were unique but together we became complete. We joined clubs and organizations and pulled the first of many all-nighters. Most importantly, we made friendships that I am sure will last a lifetime.

As the plane continues we journey through some of our more difficult times as students declaring our major or majors, scheduling just the right amount of credits, and working hard in preparation for this day; this turbulence we experienced is better known as the sophomore and junior years.

Finally, senior year -- where we look back on the many lasts we shared together such as our last first day of classes, last syllabus week, final finals week, last meal of chicken wraps from Bruno’s, and the last moments we spent together as a community.

As the plane prepares to land, I would like to thank you all for flying with the class of 2014 on our brief journey to the past. Most importantly I would like to take time to thank all of those who made this flight possible. On behalf of the Class of 2014, I want to tell our families, friends, and loved ones how much we appreciate their dedication, love, and support over these past few years.

I would like to personally thank my support system -- God and my family. I thank my two older brothers and three older sisters for setting such a high standard for me, and my nieces and nephews for pushing me to be a good role model. Most importantly, I thank my parents especially my mother.

After leaving a war torn Sudan for a more peaceful life in Kenya soon after settling, my father died when I was only one year old. My mother accepted the role of mother and father, raising six children alone while working as a seamstress. My mother always preached that education is the gateway to success, and wanted to give us the life she never had. She thought the best place to do this would be in the United States.

Many people in Kenya and Sudan doubted that a single woman could take care of six children, especially in a faraway land, but my mother is very persistent. She wanted her children to be educated, and to pursue the American Dream.

I am the last of my mother’s six children to attend and graduate from college. Mom, I stand here tonight to say that you more than proved your doubters wrong.

May we never forget the important life lessons Penn State instilled with us, and may no act of ours bring shame. Our symbolic airplane has landed safely, and our future awaits.