2022 Grads

Commencement Address

Taletha Maricle-Fitzpatrick 

Lockheed Martin Space | Senior Project Engineer

I cannot adequately describe how full my heart is today because I have the distinct honor of standing here as you take your first step into the future!

Every single one of you brings with you a unique and incredible set of experiences!

Perhaps you are a single parent trying to better your life so you can inspire and support your children. You may be a first-generation college student who is to become the ultimate source of pride for your family. You may have decided to accelerate your path and earn a certification to help you take your next step into a new career.

You may be a veteran who, after proudly serving our country, is working to reestablish yourself - to make your own way. Or perhaps you are a gifted young high school student who decided to take on additional challenges to clear your path to the future of which you have always dreamed.

I am the child of military service members. Both of my parents were in the Army Intelligence Command in Germany during the Cold War. Life happened, as it does, and my mother found herself the single parent of a toddler who had to start a new life on returning to the states. It was a hard road for the both of us. She made sacrifices along the way to ensure I had a roof over my head, food to eat, childcare - so she could work sometimes 2-3 jobs, and so I could experience the extras that were hard to come by for people of our socio-economic status – flute lessons, dance lessons, violin lessons, book and exam fees for the International Baccalaureate Programme…Eventually, she helped fund my first experience in higher education at the University of Colorado School of Music.

The thing is, when I entered the world of higher education, I realized I couldn’t do it…not at that time. Me, the gifted and talented! The kid they always picked to give the speech, to sit first chair in the band or orchestra, to stand up as an example to all of the other students!

I was unable to get through that next step, higher education, which had been ingrained in me as the path to my destiny!

You see, over the course of my life, I had developed anxiety and depression which became so crippling I was unable to attend my classes. I developed the worse kind of anxiety for an aspiring professional musician – performance anxiety.

I spent ten long years feeling the weight of what I considered to be absolute failure! It weighed on me so heavily I wouldn’t even set foot on a college campus. I believed my inability to do what everyone told me I was supposed to do – graduate from high school, attend college, begin a career, maybe get married and have some kids - was a sign that I would never find my path, that I would never find my place in the big, frightening adult world.

I felt lost.

That ten-year time period did come with some positive experiences and some challenges - some dreadful mistakes and some major wins. I ran off to the midWest with some guy where I had the opportunity to become involved with the tattoo and body modification community. I did some travelling. I learned how to body pierce. I worked at Hot Topic. But most importantly, I rediscovered my courage - my creativity - through the study of dance styles from Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Levant region. I learned 13 styles of dance! I taught and performed professionally. It was my life! And it seemed so sudden. Because my performance anxiety had been eradicated and I was eventually able to play music again…in front of people!

I began to study music again at a university because the terms, “higher education,” and, “college campus,” went from triggers to new horizons!

After about a year I decided I needed to go in a different direction. So I thought back to my first career goal as a child; I wanted to be a rockstar astronaut!

To be fair, I was in my 30’s by this point, so I most likely was going to be neither – and let’s face it; if there ever was a niche profession, rockstar astronaut was definitely it! However, it turned out my return to what interested me when I was a child – when I knew no bounds - was exactly the kind of thinking that got me to where I am today.

I decided I was going to be a rocket scientist. I found an Aerospace Physics program at a school back in my hometown. When I first spoke to the chair of the department I said (and I’m not kidding), “can you help get me to Space?” He said, “yes,” and I joined up!

I’m going to be honest with you, I had no idea what I was doing! I hadn’t taken a math class in over a decade, and I certainly had never been at the top of any science class. I was an art nerd, not a science nerd! As a matter of fact, when I decided to go back to college, I had to take ALL of the Math classes going back to trigonometry because I simply did not remember ANY of what I had learned in high school.

But I was determined. I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up!

The entire time I was in college, I struggled with poverty. I was on Medicaid and Food Stamps. I was taking a full course load. I was doing 40 hours of homework a week and working 2 jobs in addition to the volunteer work that was required to receive public assistance. This was all just to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly.

But I refused to let any of that stop me from achieving the success I knew I capable of.

At the age of 35, I earned my bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Physics! From there I went on to work for, Jeppesen Sanderson Incorporated, a major aviation charting company.

A few years later, I earned a position at Lockheed-Martin Space as an engineer! Now I am now responsible for over $100 million of hardware for Human and Deep Space programs. I am one of an army of people who will be responsible for sending the first woman of color to the moon, and eventually sending people to Mars! I am putting my own small mark on humanity’s journey into the cosmos!

You have heard me talk about my life and all of the places it took me. Why?

Because I want more than anything for each and every one of you to think about how amazing today is for YOU. AND I want you to not only celebrate your accomplishments, but to look ahead and think about where you want to go next.

The FACT is, we all have our own path. There is no formula. There is no right or wrong way to develop as an individual.

We all have our own bumps in the road, our own times when we simply change our minds about where we want to go next, and our own doubts about whether we have made the right decision.

So take some time to celebrate today. And don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you that you can’t do whatever you choose to accomplish!

I congratulate each and every one of you for getting here today – for achieving the next step in YOUR story and on YOUR path!

Student Address

Kayl Rainer 

UNM-Taos Student Government Association President  Class of 2022 Graduate

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Commencement Address

Taletha Maricle-Fitzpatrick 

Lockheed Martin Space | Senior Project Engineer

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HSE Student Address

Larae Crow

TECC at UNM-Taos Participant and HSE Graduate

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