MPP Commencement Speakers: Bria Price, MPP'19, and Nick Young, MPP'19

May 19, 2019

Bria Price, MPP'19, and Nick Young, MPP'19, speaking at Heller commencement

Bria Price: We met during an awkward canoe trip during orientation.

Nick Young: We talked the whole time. I was captivated by Bria’s vision for education. After listening to her, I was ready to join her movement.

BP: I remember Nick’s confidence, sense of conviction and perseverance to seek change and take risks to turn endings into new beginnings.

NY: Before Heller, I was never a great student. But after the 2016 election, the world looked very different. Policy work took on a new urgency.

Our cohort stepped on campus for the first time with a shared sense of purpose, even though we had our own personal missions. I found my crusade, economic justice, and when I would indignantly start spouting off about it, the cohort always responded with affirmation. This, to me, was the most amazing dynamic in our group. No one’s mission came at the expense of anyone else’s.

To my great surprise, at the end of my first semester, my grades came back and I had done really well. I can’t overstate just how my community helped me. I went through ups and downs, but the support of our cohort never waivered. When I witnessed our group asking hard questions, presenting revolutionary research, demanding equity, and fighting for a better world, it inspired me to get to work.

Bria Price, MPP'19, and Nick Young, MPP'19, speaking at Heller commencement

BP: “The most disrespected, unprotected, neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Powerful words by Malcolm X that continue to ring true in most spaces I enter, including Heller and Brandeis. The first few weeks, I struggled. Not seeing any professors of color, not reading content that uplifts black women and seeing just one statue of American black excellence in the building. I initially focused on the negative aspects. But if you know me and my faith, I couldn’t stay silent or allow others to be silenced. I remember the students of Ford Hall, who advocated for all students and addressed unjust practices against students of color. By following their lead, I decided to speak my truth to power. Once I did, I received a tremendous acknowledgment from my cohort, as they shared my concerns. You all saw me for the first time. I knew I stood on the shoulders of giants from Ford Hall, today I stand beside mighty giants: the 2019 graduates.

Together, we advocated for curriculum changes, created a democratic and successful environment, tightened our analytical skills, and embraced our flaws. Today, I now know that there are people in the world who are concerned but committed to seeking equitable rights and justice.

NY: We hear sometimes that we spend too much time describing problems and not enough time offering solutions… Fair, but if you asked us to get through a locked door, we’d spend a lot more time trying to understand the lock than looking for the key.

BP: It’s really easy to prioritize the key, skip all those depressing statistics about the racial wealth gap, and focus on what can be done about it. The quest to break the lock can seem daunting, but there is much J-O-Y in the struggle. Joy comes from internal clarity within your purpose. As Heller graduates, our purpose is justice. Your fight for justice brings us joy.

Together: Fellow graduates: Let’s continue to speak hard truths, break locks, and always spread joy.