There is no greater truth about Graceland University than its greatest cliché: what is special about Graceland is the people. As students, we hear time and time again how incredible the people of Graceland are – how the lasting friendships and lifelong community you are now a part of are what makes it great. The irony is that we recognize this the strongest once everyone is gone.
For current students, the greatest realization comes when we go home for summers. We realize how deeply ingrained Graceland is in us. As much as we may try, Graceland is now our home, and anywhere else feels all too weird. How moving back in with your parents is just a temporary move until you are allowed to go back to Lamoni and move back in with your family. Graceland is home not because of where you are but who you are with and how special every single one of those people makes being at home feel. I can deeply identify with how Graceland became my new home and how I dreaded summers. While it did mean taking time off school – and that is indeed awesome – it also meant leaving my new family.
Outside of Lamoni, though, is truly where the family thrives. There isn’t anywhere in the world where you see togetherness and compassion come together like they do with Graceland people. You can go anywhere in the world and find people willing to take you in just because you are a Gracelander, or find friends just by donning the Blue and Gold. The community you are accepted into by going to Graceland is unlike any, anywhere in the world. You cannot name another school with a community of anything close to what Graceland has created for itself – and for you. While it is not unusual for people to create lifetime friends in college, Graceland and the people that make it great create a deeper bond that is almost exclusive to GU. I have heard alumni of all ages tell stories from their time at Graceland and talk about all the people they still keep in touch with.
Sometimes we may take for granted this crucial and fundamental part of the “Graceland Experience.” How lucky are we that we get to take for granted something that no one else gets at all? That those who have gone before us have created a community – a family – just for us? That a loving and helpful community is so standard that we don’t even think about it. It was brought up at this year’s Commencement that approximately 97 percent of Graceland students receive a scholarship, in one way or another, from Graceland alumni. I seriously doubt that anywhere else can promote that kind of alumni generosity or support. The Graceland alumni are a vital part of the culture of Graceland, both off the campus and on. This after graduation culture has really helped foster the “homey feel” that is quintessentially Graceland.
So to all you graduating seniors out there, the class of 2016, this is directly for you, but it is truly applicable to all who come through Graceland at all. You can rest a little easier and breathe a little deeper. There is a community behind you that wants to support you, and will. There is a family that you can call upon and lean on if you need them. As a Graceland grad, you truly never have to walk alone.