Student speakers chosen for Spring Commencement

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Spring Commencement student speakers
Spring Commencement student speakers

The student speakers for the 2019 Spring Commencement Ceremonies have been chosen. Both students are recipients of the Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholar Award, the highest academic honor bestowed upon UM-Flint graduates. Both ceremonies will be held April 28.

10 a.m. ceremony, Christopher Sanjurjo Montalvo

Christopher Sanjurjo Montalvo found his sense of belonging at UM-Flint. And he found a professional path to helping others.

“The University of Michigan-Flint has granted me so many chances to discover my place in the world,” Sanjurjo Montalvo said.

Sanjurjo Montalvo grew up in poverty in the Bronx. When his single mom lost her job, they lived in shelters for several months when he was very young.

“My mom always told me education was going to be my way out,” said Sanjurjo Montalvo.

As he grew older, Sanjurjo Montalvo knew he wanted to find a way to tackle systemic social issues that leave some communities without proper resources. After serving in the U.S. Army, he found his answer at UM-Flint.  Sanjurjo Montalvo chose the university for its strong social work program.  His wife, Olivia Miller, is also a student at the university. The couple have three-year-old twin daughters, Allison and Serena.

Last summer, he traveled to South Africa for study abroad. There, he learned about ways in which communities connect through shared humanity, such as community gatherings and public expression through the arts. He has been heavily involved with the Phi Alpha Honor Society, and has interned since last year with Mpowering My Success, a UM-Flint program that provides support to students previously in foster care.

Sanjurjo Montalvo hopes to leverage what he has learned at the university to help improve the Bronx as a politician. He is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in social work.

“Through the guidance, the diversity, and the strong community that is the University of Michigan-Flint, I have been able to grow,” said Sanjurjo Montalvo. “I have met diverse people from all backgrounds who share the same ideologies of social justice, passion for helping others, and personal development. UM-Flint inspired me to reach for more.” 

3 p.m. ceremony, Andrea Draheim

Andrea Draheim considers her comfort with being a commencement speaker as one of many ways in which she grew as a person at UM-Flint.

“I was quiet, even timid, when I started my educational journey at the University of Michigan-Flint. I never loved presenting, not even to a few people,” said Draheim, who is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“My professors really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone,” she said, adding that she now enjoys presenting to large groups.

“Over the course of my education, I learned much about myself, and grew both personally and professionally through my academic, clinical, and volunteer experiences. In my time at the university, my instructors saw my potential and helped pull me out of my shell and pushed me to always put forth my best effort. It has been exhilarating.”

Draheim tutored her fellow nursing students during her college career, which also helped her tackle her shyness.

“I strive to be a leader and a role model for the students I tutor and greatly enjoy being part of their success,” she said.

Draheim utilized the skills she learned at UM-Flint to volunteer throughout the region, including with the Thomas Smith Memorial (Teen Heart Check), the Crim Fitness Foundation, and with other opportunities offered through the School of Nursing. Her career plans are to be an emergency room nurse. She worked with the Hurley Medical Center emergency department in Flint last summer, and credits her education at UM-Flint for giving her the confidence to succeed within that intense setting.

“The supportive staff and faculty contributed to my success and pushed me to do my absolute best all the time,” Draheim said.

Robert is a staff writer in University Communications & Marketing. Contact him with comments, questions, and story ideas.