Majessa Pedrozo is SUNY New Paltz’s 2020 Valedictorian

Majessa Pedrozo ’19 (Communication Disorders) achieved incredible things during her time at SUNY New Paltz, but she says one of the most important was finding ways to come out of her shell.

“My first weeks on campus were a bit nerve-racking because I was navigating a new and unfamiliar chapter in my life, but that timidity gradually dissipated,” she said. “I found community in the Honors Program and met upperclassmen who I could look up to and who inspired me to get involved in different campus activities. By partaking in what the College had to offer, I gained confidence and grew as a person.”

Pedrozo, who hails from Mamaroneck, New York, quickly grew into roles as a model scholar and student leader. She found a home in the Department of Communication Disorders, studying a field she had been interested in from a young age.

“My early love of reading and my upbringing in a multilingual household gave me a great appreciation for language,” she said. “In addition to my love of language, I was inspired by many of my family members who are in the health care and rehabilitation profession. Speech-language pathology felt like the perfect combination of my interests in language and rehabilitation.”

She played a key role with the College’s Speech-Language and Hearing Center, which provides opportunities for students to apply their training in real clinical settings.

“My experience working as an undergraduate clinician in the Speech-Language and Hearing Center was a wonderful capstone to my studies,” Pedrozo said. “It helped me connect and synthesize all that I have learned in a practical and meaningful way.”

Pedrozo was actively involved in other aspects of the discipline as well. She helped create a new student-faculty book club in the department, enjoyed professional roles at NYU Rusk Rehabilitation and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, and served as public relations coordinator and then as president of the New Paltz chapter of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association. She credits faculty with presenting challenges and opportunities to help her rise.

“The support that I received from my professors gave me the confidence to challenge myself both inside and outside the classroom,” she said. “Professor [Jessica] Welsh in particular had a huge impact on my success. From my first course in Communication Disorders to my senior Honors thesis, she was there to support and guide me.

“Dr. Pat Sullivan, the director of the Honors Program, also had a major impact,” Pedrozo said. “She was always there to give me advice and pushed me to pursue internships that would help me gain invaluable experiences.”

Pedrozo graduated at the end of the fall 2019 semester and went on to earn a 2020 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. Before departing campus, she lent her time and perspective to welcoming new students as a keynote speaker at the 2019 Convocation ceremony last August.

The advice she gave the incoming class reflected on how she began her college career, and how far she had come in just a few short years.

“Know that it’s okay to be unsure, confused and even scared of what lies ahead,” Pedrozo said. “After all, college is about self-discovery and learning to make big decisions. Take advantage of your time here – challenge yourself, seize the opportunities that may seem intimidating, and take charge of your education. Trust me; you will learn more from experiences that push your capabilities.”

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