Real Story: Michael Chiong

Michael Chiong

CSM Class of 2022, Engineering

CSM alum Michael Chiong in graduation regalia and holding the college's ceremonial mace

Accolades, Accomplishments, and Highlights: Class of Spring 2022 Student Speaker

Like many of you, my journey to get to where I am has been tough. Coffee became my water; I completely forgot that there was a thing called “sleeping;” and last but not least: physics classes at 8:30 a.m.

And yet, we made it! And for so many reasons, and just like many of you, I am so grateful.

Two years ago, I immigrated from the Philippines. Like many immigrants, all I brought with me was a dream—a dream to be successful and to make my family proud.

When I was in grade school, my parents would get me and my two siblings up at 4 a.m. to go with my mom to the bakery where she worked. Our house was an hour away from the school, but just 10 minutes from the bakery. When 6 a.m. rolled around, my siblings and I would leave for school, and we usually wouldn't get home until 11 p.m.

At the time, I was annoyed and did not understand why they woke us up so early. But as I matured, I realized that they were making all of those sacrifices for the sake of me and my siblings.

My parents are still in the Philippines with the rest of my family, and I miss them terribly. But I am grateful they taught me the meaning of hard work and discipline. Their work ethic had a lot to do with my decision to immigrate to America, and I know they are with me here today, in spirit, and in my heart.

When I first came to the United States, I had a pretty rough start. I wasn't familiar with the culture and had difficulty with the language. It was all very intimidating—and then, of course, there was that pandemic.

One of the things that struck me about CSM, as soon as I got here, is how eager everyone was to help—not just the faculty, but also my fellow classmates.

But little did I realize what it really meant to become a member of the CSM family, until I experienced a shocking setback. You see, I was shot in 2021 in Waldorf, in a random act of violence.

When that happened, combined with all of the other changes I was experiencing, my heart just broke from fear and sadness. I began flunking out of my classes. It took me a while to overcome the fear that I might be shot again. But this college, and all of my classmates, rallied to help me.

My professors were understanding, my fellow classmates were supportive, and I was put in touch with the college's Counseling Services, where I was able to receive free emotional counseling.

I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed to share with you that I received counseling, because I firmly believe that we must end the stigma that surrounds depression.

That is part one of my advice to you today. None of us are immune to the possibility of having something tragic happen to us, or having a bunch of tragic things happen all at once! I needed help, and I asked for it. Because I did, I am here today, having earned my engineering degree and graduating with high honors.

I urge you to speak up when you are suffering or having a hard time. There are ways to mend, heal, tackle your fears, and cope day to day. All you have to do is ask.

The second part of my advice is to be patient. My boyfriend, best friend, and partner in crime taught me that. I came to a point where I was in despair because, no matter how hard I worked at school, it seemed I just wasn't moving forward. But in reality, I did not just take a step; I leapt.

My last piece of advice is to remember to be grateful. We didn't make it where we are by ourselves. We got here with the help of many other people: Our parents and relatives, our friends, our CSM family, and each other.

Sure, we worked really hard! But the fact is we are here today because many people helped us and we must also be thankful for our community of caregivers.

Thank you to everyone in my CSM community for not just teaching me engineering, but for opening my eyes and giving me the tools to live my life. Work hard, ask for help, be patient, be grateful. Surviving and thriving is really that simple.

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Last updated: 6-29-22

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