Ruhama Tollossa remembers the moment she was asked to be the Fall 2017 student commencement speaker. She could not have felt more honored.

“This is a special moment for me,” Ruhama said. “UNT Dallas is my home. This is my second family. I can’t imagine graduating from anywhere else.”

As Ruhama prepares to address her fellow graduates, she has enjoyed the chance to reflect on the village that brought her from her birthplace in Ethiopia to the UNT Dallas commencement stage as the student speaker.

“Seventeen years ago, my parents won the lottery. It wasn’t a money lottery – it was a chance to move from Ethiopia to America,” Ruhama said. “It was a chance to build a new foundation for our family. When I got here, I didn’t know English. Now my siblings and I are all attending school, and we’re all pursuing our dreams. We couldn’t have done that in Ethiopia.”

As a young girl, she embraced a new language, a new culture, and new opportunities. The road wasn’t easy, but for Ruhama, the work was always worthwhile. Her fortitude was at the forefront of every endeavor.

At UNT Dallas, Ruhama has thrived. She is a member of the inaugural class of Presidential Scholars, and an active member of the Psychology Club and Girls Helping Girls. She also served as a Student Government Association Officer, and was one of the first UNT Dallas students to participate in a student research symposium in Austin. 

“I love UNT Dallas and the people here,” Ruhama said. “UNT Dallas is full of genuine people that care about your future and make sure you are on the right path. If you are passionate about your future, they want to help get you there.”

After graduation, Ruhama plans to pursue a doctorate in psychology and pursue a career in teaching and research. First, however, she’ll grace the stage of the Inspiring Body of Christ Church, and say one final thank you – her only fear is not thanking everyone enough.

“I don’t want to leave anyone out, so many people have supported me,” Ruhama said. “It would take all night to thank every classmate, professor, family member and friend who has shaped me into who I am today. They are my village, and for them I will always be grateful.” 

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