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April Rhodes

YCF Board Member / President & CEO of Spectrum Health


Her speech was inspiring, motivating and uplifting - here's a bit her wise words:

Congratulations Yavapai College graduates! You made it. I really want to take this in. To say I am grateful for this opportunity is an understatement…. this is a real full-circle moment for me. When I started at YC almost 15 years ago, as a single mom of two young children, I never imagined what that would lead to. I was just intent on building a better life for those kids. Modeling for them a better way. I saw education as the path to making that happen. But it felt so out of reach at the time.

When I first moved to AZ, I would ride the metro bus to and from work and it was on a route right past the ASU Tempe campus. As we would ride past, I would stare out the window at the kids on the campus seemingly certain of themselves and where they were going, and wondered to myself, what must it be like to go to a school like that? What kind of people get to go there? People in my family didn’t go to college. How do you even start? How would I have time to go AND work full-time AND who would watch my kids? If I figured all of that out, how would I pay for it? And what if I failed?? I was scared to begin not knowing how it would all end. Fearful of even letting myself want it. In the meantime, I moved from Phoenix to Prescott.

I had those same feelings driving by the Yavapai College campus. I set out to just get it done. I was fortunate to have a web of support around me. My friends and family, my mom, an employer who allowed me to work crazy hours and shifts so I could leave in the middle of the day to attend classes on campus. I received scholarships from the very foundation I now serve on the board for.

My time at YC set the foundation for everything that came next. Suddenly, I could picture myself going to ASU. So, I did. I applied for and completed ASU’s first online bachelor’s program. The first time I got to step foot on that magical ASU campus was to receive that bachelor’s degree. Then I imagined even more. Why couldn’t I also get a master’s degree? Why couldn’t I be the CEO of the company I landed my first post-grad school job with? With each new endeavor came the intense fear of what if I can’t and what if I’m wrong?

Fear of failure can be debilitating. It can immobilize us, and keep us from even trying. But it shouldn’t be. It is failure that motivates us. The stakes are greater, and the fear of failure can intensify.

I have a favorite quote from Winston Churchill that says “success is not final; failure is not fatal; it's the courage to keep going that counts.” In those few words, Churchill captured so many rich things that only he could.

Today is a beginning, not an ending. Today we are celebrating a milestone, not a finish line.

So, when you succeed at that thing you set out to do, don’t rest on your laurels. Challenge yourself to the next thing, to reach higher. You can always find another gear. Even when it feels like you can’t keep moving. Success is not final.

And when, not if, you fail at something you’re striving for, know that failure is not fatal. There are valuable lessons to be learned, and shared with others, within that experience that will make you better. Embrace them.

Take this moment in Yavapai College graduates. Everything you went through to get here, the triumphs, the setbacks, and let it fuel you through the next thing!

Learn more about April Rhodes in YC360 Magazine here.