Graduation Speeches

Salutatorian Speech by Kristina Gaddy-Kates — Summer 2019 Weekend Class

Good afternoon family, friends, fellow classmates, and Jac.

I welcome you to the graduation of Jac Brennan’s 61st Paralegal Certificate class. Thank you all for being here to celebrate this special day with us. Looking back on the first day of class I definitely underestimated the difficulty of this course. I did my research and thought, “Only eight weeks to be a paralegal, this should be a breeze.” Boy was I wrong. I think I speak for my fellow classmates in this room when I say Ms. Jac Brennan pushed us all to new limits. Personally, she challenged me in ways I have not been challenged intellectually in a very long time. I had to learn her style of teaching, grading, and get familiar with her blunt criticism. Every week was filled with hours of studying and homework. We all had to learn to find a balance between work and school. I don’t think sleep was a part of the equation. I think we can all agree we felt tired, stressed and even frustrated at times. But it was definitely worth it. All six of us were able to push through and keep going because of the support we gave one another, and from the support from all of you in this room. Thank you for supporting us and being understanding when we complained or had to say “No” because we were just too busy with schoolwork. All of us made sacrifices to be here every weekend. Today we are able to see all of our hard work pay off. Jac, I just want to personally thank you for pushing me and not allowing me to be a below average citizen. Thank you for being patient with all of us, and not giving up on any of us. Because of you Jac we are by far better citizens and legal professionals. Lastly, to my fellow classmates, the Super Six, we made it out alive! Congratulations!

Valedictorian Speech by Rachel Clark — Summer 2019 Weekend Class

Dearest classmates, professor, and distinguished guests. Let me first start by saying a massive thank you for being here today. Today, we celebrate and commemorate our hard work and great accomplishments. Over the past nine weeks, we endured a huge amount stress and learned more than we thought was humanly possible. Today, as we graduate, we not only reflect on things learned and hardships endured, we look towards the future. Today we receive more than just a certificate. We receive an unparalleled knowledge. We move forward, into the future, armed with the knowledge for justice.

So, let us remember a few things that Jac has instilled in us:

Say thank you. And say it again.

Watch the news.

Pay attention to what’s happening around you.

Always fight for what is right.

Spellcheck EVERYTHING.

Be prepared to work hard in our future endeavors.

However, just as Jac has taught us, hard work is the most rewarding. For that, we’re forever grateful. Thank you, Jac.

Congratulations to my classmates. It was harder than any of us could ever expect, but we did it. Now it’s time for a well deserved nap.

Valedictorian Speech by Leyma Rivera — Summer 2016 Weekend Class

Good Afternoon,

I would like to start by thanking every single one of you, family and friends, for coming to our graduation to show your support and share this accomplishment with us. Today I have the honor of speaking on behalf of Jac’s Golden Class. When Jac told us to prepare a speech for today, I honestly did not know exactly what I would say because I have never had the privilege to give one. So I went to Jac’s uhparalegal website to read previous speeches to get some ideas, but right away I stop myself because I did not want to pull a Melania Trump. So, I decided to simply try to give an honest speech that reflected the experiences and journey that my classmates and I endured throughout this program in order to be here today and finally graduating.

Before starting the program, I do not think that each of us had the slightest idea of how fast-paced, and homework intensive it was going to be. What I think caught our interest, for most of us, was that it was a short 10-week program to become a professional paralegal that would give us the opportunity to quickly change careers or advance our knowledge for those who were already in the legal field. From day one we were hit—Well, not literally because we understand that words are important (recall that story when Jac was telling us her pet peeves and one was “I was blown away, literally” Mm, no you weren’t, it’s not realistic isn’t?) So, from day one we were hit by how hard the program was going to be, and we soon realized that our lives were no longer going to be ours if we wanted to successfully complete the program. So the short 10-weeks became long and more difficult every day. Day by day, I am sure we each struggled but worked hard to keep up with the class, especially for those who have full-time jobs while taking the program. Congratulations Golden Class because every single one of our names made it to the board. So going out to socialize with friends and family was not an option, watching television was not either unless it was to watch the news or The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and sleeping—well, this was a privilege. From getting a full eight-hour sleep prior the program it turned into a 4-5- hour sleep while being in the program. I believe that some of my classmates even had days that worked through the night to finish homework in time, and did not get any sleep.

Golden Class, we have finally made it. I would like to also thank family and friends who supported each one of us throughout the course of this program. Without your support, I honestly do not know how we would have made it. I am not sure if I speak for most of my class, but thanks to my husband I had some food to eat at home, clean clothes to wear the next day, and a clean house. Despite all of this, it has definitely been a rewarding experience. We walk away with great skills and knowledge of the legal system, the importance of being active members of society by staying informed of what happens in the world—not just what happens to Teen Titans Go or Bob’s Burger, and what constitutes an unauthorized practice of law as professional paralegals. I honestly enjoyed every home work, field work, and even test bonus questions on things that we should know. We know more about the state we live in, the preamble to the Constitution, every word to our National Anthem, the first and last names to the people in The Cabinet, and the names of each Supreme Court Justice.

On behalf of the Golden Class, I would like to give Jac a sincere thank you. We want you to know that we truly admire your passion for the law, dedication and care to your students so that we not only understand but also learn how to use the skills you taught us, and be able to think on our feet. We are going to miss hearing your great stories. Jac always has a great story and used those stories to explain different topics for us to understand and apply theory to real life situations. I enjoyed every story you shared with us. We are going to miss you Jac, and we hope that you always remember your Golden Class. I am sure that we are all looking forward to get our weekends back, sleep in late and not feel guilty for sleeping—like Chasity would always say, and have time to spend with family and friends. It was a pleasure meeting and getting to know every single one of you, including Jac.

Thank you everyone, thank you Jac once more, and congratulations Golden Class. We are now professional paralegals.

Valedictorian Speech by Brittney Wallace — Spring 2016 Weekend Class

Let’s play a game, graduates not included. Raise your hand if you can name all of the Supreme Court justices. Can you name the Police Chief of Houston? What about the Secretary of Treasury? Do you know in what year women were granted the right to vote? How many members are in the House of Representatives?

Bueller? Bueller?

Welcome to the first day of Jac Brennan’s class, where words are important, you always need more, and sleep is not a privilege granted to the students. This class was more difficult than any of us could have imagined, but also more rewarding. As most of you witnessed, we sacrificed sleep, meals, social lives, and our sanity in order to stand before you today as professional paralegals. I want to thank you all for supporting us during this class. There’s no way we could’ve made it through this without you. I also want to thank my classmates. Jac told us on the first day that we would become close friends and each other’s biggest supporters because no one else would fully understand what we were going through. She was right. I’m thankful for your friendships and can rest easy knowing that if I ever forget how to spell “definitely,” I’ll have 17 people to call.

Most importantly though, I want to thank Jac. In ten short weeks you turned us into active, knowledgeable members of our society who now care more about the Supreme Court justices than the Kardashians. Thank you for being such a fantastic teacher, role model, and friend. You have been so influential to all of us and I cannot thank you enough for this experience.

Now let’s wrap this up since you all know how much I hate public speaking. Congratulations and best of luck to the graduating class. I hope you all go home and take the nap you deserve.


Valedictorian Speech by Sarah Blanchard — Fall 2015 Weekday Class

Jac told us last week that the current weekend class is intimidated by us. And they should be. We’ve done twice as much work as most classes. Not only did we do twice as much work, we dealt with life too, because of course life doesn’t stop. One of us had a major surgery, and another had a family member hospitalized. Some of us planned weddings, many of us worked or had internships. One person cancelled her Thanksgiving plans so she could dedicate herself to the class. Another person had to deal with moving across town, while still printing out her homework in time. There are only 9 of us, but I could list our challenges for a while. Jac will always remember our class, not only for our size but also for our perseverance. Because, being here today, we did it.

Jac told us at lunch last week how she got into teaching this program. She said the first class had no homework assignments or any tests. And of course, while that sounds easy and maybe like a welcome change for us at this point after 23 tests, she also said the students learned few tangible skills. She said that the students were demanding a refund from the University of Houston.

I challenge any of you, my fellow paralegals, to demand a refund. We are lucky to be the 47th class, because we’ve learned tangible skills, and so much more.

My father told me once about one his favorite college professors who told the class his job wasn’t to teach, but to trick students into learning. I speak for all of us when I say, Jac, thanks for tricking us into learning, especially so much more than we thought possible in a mere 14-week class.

To the friends and family members in the audience, thanks for your support during this program. Thanks for your patience while we studied late into the night and got up early in the mornings, and worked during the weekends too. Thanks to anybody who contributed to us affording our wonderful education with Jac.

To my fellow paralegals – The world is your oyster, the future is bright. I’m out of clichés so I’ll keep it simple – congratulations!


Salutatorian Speech by Rosemary Sandoval — Fall 2015 Weekday Class

Good afternoon fellow graduates, family, and friends. Thank you for coming out today to share in celebration of this special day with us.

I decided to take this class after becoming frustrated with my job and feeling like I was at a roadblock. I heard of the program through a co-worker who had taken it, she warned me that it would be very tuff but very worth it. She was right! I was very excited on the first day of class and that was quickly turned into worry. Jac made sure to let us know that this would not be easy. I found myself staying up until the early morning hours several days a week. I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I knew the reason, I actually really enjoyed what I was doing. I had considered getting into the legal field for several years and even thinking about law school but it wasn’t until I took this class that I knew it’s what I want to do. I have learned so much about myself in the past 12 weeks that I didn’t know I had in me.

I want to thank Jac for being such a great instructor and for showing us how important words are and that “you have to follow directions”. Although she was very tough on us in class, she has the biggest heart and is truly an inspiration. I know that you will always remember us for being the smallest class, but bigger doesn’t always mean better. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are 9 Supreme Court Justices and 9 of us.

So I know that we will always reign supreme in your mind. Thank you.


Salutatorian Speech by Michael Stirgus — Fall 2014 Weekday Class

Family, friends, our esteemed educator, and fellow graduates, it is my great honor to welcome you to our graduation this afternoon. Today is the ending of the winding, serpentine road we have traversed to get here. I think I can speak for all my fellow graduates when I say this has been one of the most challenging, frustrating, maddening, yet ultimately rewarding experiences of our entire lives. It sounds rather simple on paper; the class only met twice a week, the program lasted only a few months, our teacher would allow us to turn in homework early so she could grade it and give it back to us to fix our mistakes, and we even got holiday time off. At least that was my thought process regarding this program. I could not have been more wrong.

Almost immediately, Jac Brennan made it clear that we were not as smart as we all assumed we were. Can you imagine American citizens not knowing the names of all 9 Supreme Court justices, or not being able to recite the entire preamble to the Constitution, or not being able to name the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? I will spare all of you the same public humiliation we experienced. Every week, we spent tens of hours poured over our O’Connor’s textbook, furiously trying to make sense of that cipher; or desperately searching through the Westlaw labyrinth to locate the United States Supreme Court case that was just right. Through it all, we had your support. You told us we were smarter than we thought, believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves, provided us the time and space needed to properly study, made us laugh when we wanted to pull our hair out from the root, and most importantly you made sure we still ate 3 decent meals a day. In a rare moment of complete sincerity, with no scent of sarcasm or shade, I want to say thank you. Your support has meant more to us than you could ever know.

I’d like to recognize my classmates and thank each of you for your comradery throughout this time. I remember the simple moments of walking into the classroom and seeing Sandy and Virginia’s sunny, smiling faces at the otherwise wretched hour of 6AM, of listening to Sydney and Ashley debate whose cat was crazier, of seeing William’s black Mustang peeling into the parking garage. Most notable was Abigail’s triumphant return to class after thoroughly kicking cancer’s butt. I’ll treasure those moments and your friendship. In the spirit of us going out to start our new careers, I’d like to share a poem by one of my favorite poets, Lucille Clifton:


may the tide

that is entering even now

the lip of our understanding

carry you out

beyond the face of fear

may you kiss

the wind then turn from it

certain that it will

love your back may you

open your eyes to water

water waving forever

and may you in your innocence

sail through this to that


Finally, on a personal note, I’ve got a bone to pick with our teacher, Jac Brennan. I’ve spent most of my life comfortably underachieving as an A-B student. I can still hear my parents’ voices telling me that a B isn’t good enough, because I was capable of more. Jac challenged me and lit a fire in me to aspire to be the best. I’m much more enlightened, informed, interested, and generally just a better citizen. Thanks to Jac, I get to spend the rest of my natural life having my parents tell me “I told you so,” and “You should have listened to me.” Thank you, and congratulations everyone!


Salutatorian Speech by David Goozéy — Fall 2014 Weekend Class

Friends, family, fellow students, and Jac,

Today I have the honor of welcoming you to the graduation of the 41st
and best class the University of Houston has ever seen. We, the battered and exhausted survivors of class 41, will soon be able to call ourselves graduates. We overcame sleepless nights, devastating test scores, and soul crushing red ink to obtain the title of certified paralegals.

I know that it must be hard for those friends and family members here today to understand just how big of an accomplishment this is. I mean, it’s just a 10 week certificate course right? Wrong! This was the hardest, most intellectually challenging experience of our lives. Every week the amount of homework grew bigger, every week the test grew harder, every week the material grew more and more complicated. It was because of your love and support that my classmates and I are able to stand before you today as graduates of the most grueling paralegal certification program in Houston. On behalf of my class, I thank you for your patience, your understanding, and your support.

Of course, at the head of every great class is a great teacher and I think I speak for all of us here today when I say that we had greatest teacher in Jac Brennan. Jac, I’m not one for sentimentality, or indeed most basic human emotions, and I’m sure by now you’re tired of hearing how amazing you are and how life changing your class is. I’ve read the speeches given by former students and they all said it more eloquently then I ever could, so I’ll just say this: in 10 weeks you were able to make me a better student, a better citizen, and a better human being. I will never forget the lessons you taught me, the habits you instilled in me, and the pet peeves that I am still scared of committing. Thank you for inviting us into your home, thank you for believing in us, and thank you for pushing us beyond what we thought we were capable of doing.

Finally, to the people who survived this class with me: thank you. Every single one of you was an inspiration that pushed me to be better. I never had to make the decision between missing important days in a family member’s life and finishing homework. I didn’t have my car broken into and have my class work stolen. I didn’t have a baby one week and show up to class the week after. I didn’t lose a loved one and then find a way to complete a course more rigorous than most college classes. But my class mates did. I didn’t get to watch soccer on Saturday mornings. That was my sacrifice. Every single one of my fellow students here today, regardless of their class rank, deserves as much, if not more, respect than I do.

And so, my biggest thank you is reserved for all of you, my classmates from class 41. You, that made the hardest class I’ve ever taken, not only bearable, but enjoyable. I woke up every Saturday and Sunday at 6AM, drove 40 minutes, and sat in a classroom for 8 hours on some of the nicest days in Houston history, and I looked forward to it.

Congratulations to every single one of you, you earned it.


Valedictorian Speech by Aaron Patterson — Winter Weekend Class 2014

The Honorable Jac Brennan, guests, friends, family and most importantly, fellow graduates. Good afternoon and thank you all for being here to help us celebrate our wonderful accomplishment. Eleven Sundays ago, we learned that Sundays are “Things you should know” day. Sundays will never be the same. I think our class must share the wealth. Name a current Supreme Court Justice. Name the President of the United States.   And Jac, so everybody knows, please spell definitely for us. These life lessons will be with us forever.

Some may think that this accomplishment is not a big deal because it is only a certificate program. I am here to tell you that that thinking is far from the truth. This course was harder than my 4 years at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. We worked our asses off to get here today. We would not be here without the support of you, our friends and family. I would like to thank my friends who are here with me today for supporting and pushing me, especially with all that has happened. I can’t thank you enough. I would like to thank Dwane Todd, my friend and lawyer who help me get to where I am. I would especially like to thank Coy for the Monday morning texts asking how class went or just asking me how I was. Troy for always being there for me and coming over for the small things, calling me and talking me through tough times and for being there in case I ever Fall. Sheri for being here today, not only as my friend but as a special support and meaning for me today. And to my mother and father who flew in from sunny Buffalo, New York to be here with me this week.

We all took this course for different reasons. A Stepping stone to become a lawyer, to earn a certificate for a current job or to advance with a current company, because we wanted a career change or because it has always been a dream. No matter why we chose this course, we all need to stand up tall and proud and say, “We did it and we survived.”

On September 18, 2013, the day after our 2nd wedding anniversary, my spouse was diagnosed with liver cancer, two days later I lost my job. I told my husband Matt that maybe I should look into going for a paralegal certificate and he told me, “You should do it, you have been talking about it for years.” Five weeks later he lost his battle. On December 14th, I attended an information session for this course and met Jac for the first time. I am thankful for that. On the first day of class, former students told us that Jac will build up our confidence and make us a better person. She sure did.

Jac, you were the teacher that I needed to have. You told us not to let personal issues get in the way. It was difficult for me, but you helped me to believe in myself, have confidence in myself, and helped me be proud of myself. You did all this when I was really doubting myself. This class was educational for me in many ways and I can’t thank you enough. A very special thing you made me understand was the day you told me, “Aaron, it is too early for Washington, D.C.” That was what I really needed to hear. Thank you very much.

To my fellow graduates, I was somehow named the cheerleader of the class. I want you all to know that whether you know it or not, you were MY cheerleaders. I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you. Each of you provided me with some form of motivation or encouragement and I cannot thank you enough. You helped me get to where I am today and I appreciate it. Will, thanks for the battle of the best. I wonder how many times Jac has had 2 males in the top two. Dani, Diana, and Cesar for cheering me on throughout the class, we were an awesome corner. And to the Katy Krew, Jennifer and Mindy. Thank you for the talks we shared during our car pools. Thank you for listening and thank you for helping me when I needed to talk to someone.

Jac never gave us detailed information, she made us figure things out for ourselves. From the first day of class, when we got onboard Jac’s Wild and Crazy roller coaster ride, we had many ups and downs, twists and turns, but we are here today with our hair messy, wind-blown faces, scared, thrilled and excited. Today we come to the end of this roller coaster ride. But look out fellow graduates, we are about to get on board another roller coaster ride as we begin the next chapters of our lives.

I would like to leave you with some parting words:


Giant dweller of the forest and marshland, I face a time of uncertainty. Fill me with your confidence and your wisdom.

Teach me when to speak and when to be silent. Help me find a point of balance and harmony.

So that success may be mine in honor.

Matt loved Moose and I believe he is now my spirit moose and he brought you all into my life for a reason.

We all started the class with uncertainty. Jac filled us with confidence and wisdom. She taught us when to speak and when to be silent and like the scales of justice, she taught us balance and harmony. Now success is ours and we are honored.

I would like to congratulate each and every one of you and for one last time, Clap-clap-clap.


Salutatorian Speech by Will Tomlinson — Winter Weekend Class 2014

Welcome everyone, and thanks for coming. You know, I just wrote this speech last night, so please bear with me. Yesterday when we found out our class rankings, Jac asked me, “So are you going to do a speech?” I responded, “Of course, I got second place, so I’m supposed to do a speech, right? Why wouldn’t I do a speech?” and she said something like, “Well, you know, there are a lot of reasons. You have to get up in front of a lot of people and be the center of everyone’s attention, and it’s a lot of pressure.” I didn’t say anything, but for a moment I thought “Well in that case maybe I shouldn’t.” But I was already doing the opening statement, so I decided to go through with it.


Besides, this class has always been a lot of pressure. At first, it almost seemed impossible. Jac assured everyone not to panic when most of us would inevitably fail the first test. It was a ton of material to be tested on with very little time to prepare. And that would continue going forward. The workload never really got any lighter. But for some reason, it started to feel lighter. Part of it was the growing confidence that would come after, despite occasional hiccups, the week to week confirmation that we could do it. But most importantly, it was the sense that we were all in it together. It was that sense of community. And on that note, I’d like to thank Cesar for giving me rides until he moved to another part of town. I probably wouldn’t be standing up here if it hadn’t been for our morning quizzes on the way to class. And I’m sure there are many other similar stories.


I think a sense of community is indeed the most valuable thing that this class had to offer. That’s most true of this community of students who will always be a part of Jac’s and each other’s lives, but it’s also true of the world at large. To have a basic understanding of the law, as well as the history of the law, is to begin to understand how we fit into the larger communities of Houston, of Texas, of America, and even of humanity. In addition, the bonus questions on the tests and the extra credit assignments helped us to open our eyes to what’s going on around us, whether through documentaries that Jac lent us or The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, or even through trending topics on Facebook or Google News.


I have to admit that for politics junkies like me it came more naturally than for others. I never realized just how much growing up with two socially conscious lawyers for parents had affected my outlook in life until I had one for an instructor. But I feel that now I /
have found another community, the legal community, that I’m excited to be a part of. A vital part of this class has been the guest speakers that Jac invites to come and speak to us. It really gives us a great window into the vast possibilities that are open to us in the legal field. Whether it was Jon Nechman talking about immigration law and working on asylum cases, Michael Kukuk talking about administrative law and fighting employment discrimination as part of the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs), Jane Vara talking about criminal defense, or Danny Vara talking about how much money we can make as paralegals, it was definitely one of the best parts of class.


So thank you, Jac, from the bottom of my heart, for this invaluable opportunity. I can honestly say that I feel privileged to be part of such a wonderful community.



Salutatorian Speech by Velika Johnson — Summer Weekday Class 2013

I’m lying in bed at 7:30 a.m. on the morning of June 10th thinking, “Do I really want to take this class?” “Do I really want to spend this money, commit every Monday and Thursday for the next 12 weeks?”  Just as I’m thinking of the other ways I could spend $5,000 I feel something push me out of bed. God has gotten me up. I’ve showered, dressed and in the car within 20 min. I get on 45S, of course there’s traffic, I turn off to the Beltway, yet more traffic…I get on the Hardy Toll road and I’m zooming, but, only until I get to 59S. I get off at Jensen, take the street past Minute Maid park, past the new Compass stadium, down St. Emmanuel, over to 45S, and I exit at UH. I get to the office by 8:50a.m. Class starts in 10 minutes. Needless, to say I was late for the first day of class. I walk in and Jac gives that look. That look that says, “This will be my problem student.” After I sit, she continues with her list of do’s and don’ts.  Do spell DEFINITELY correctly, don’t ask a question that’s already been asked, do write thank you notes to every speaker, don’t use HOPEFULLY unless you can substitute FULL OF HOPE in its place and the sentence is correct. I feel, almost right, and etc have no place in Jac’s class. After 23 rules for succeeding in the paralegal program and a long list of extra credit documentaries, books, and tv, I’m back to thinking, “do I really want to take this class and can I get a refund?”

It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on the class. Jac was such an engaging, calculative, organized teacher that I found myself looking forward to class.

This class has been stressful, exciting, motivating, and frustrating. But most of all this class has been inspirational to me. We choose how we want to live our lives and I encourage each of you to choose the side where you grow, learn, and live. Don’t just go with something because it’s comfortable, because you know it, or because you have a plan in your mind. When plans change – be flexible, welcome the uncomfortable – that’s when you grow, and always keep the thought that life is precious and the people here with us are too. Don’t overlook the obvious.

Each person in this class has offered me an opportunity for growth. For instance, Rachel showed me tenacity, Jack (the man) displayed determination, Donna is the ultimate in perseverance, and from Rosyland and her mother I learned how to be a better mother to my boys. But, Jennifer was my muse. She and I fought for the #2 spot for weeks. Because of Jennifer, I’ve learned healthy competition.

This program would not be what it is and I would not have learned what I have if not for the teaching style of Jac Brennan. My boys even want her as a teacher. I’m glad God pushed me out of bed that Monday morning and got me to class. I’ve not regretted it a single day. I will forever be grateful for meeting each of my classmates and for having Jac as a fine example of a wonder woman.


Valedictorian Speech by Rosyland Jeffries — Summer Weekday Class 2013

When I decided to take this paralegal course, I attended the information session.  Jac Brennan gave us an overview, told us she would be the instructor, and that there would probably be 20 or more hours of studying and reading every week.  When I heard all that, I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll just do what I have to in order to pass the course, get that 70, get the certificate, and then I’m out.”  I was sure my plan was pretty sound until I got to the classroom and Jac told us about “the board.”  I knew I would be there to learn, but when I realized I would also be competing to get the top spot on the board, it was “game on.”  My fellow classmates, we know that Jac Brennan is an attorney, writer, speaker, a great instructor, one hell of a storyteller, and has a long list of other credentials, but I am going to add one more to that list, diabolical genius.  She knew that by putting that board up and having us look at it every day, we would work hard to get our names on it and even harder to keep our names on it.  Also, let us not forget the stickers and smiley faces.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you as a grown woman who was constantly on the edge of her seat anxiously waiting to see if she would get one of those stickers and a smiley face on her paper!

We had a lot of work, and I mean A LOT OF WORK, as in no social life, no telephone conversations with friends, and forgetting what the sun looks like.   Even when I went to the first Texans’ pre-season home game, I couldn’t enjoy it because I knew I should be studying, so I left the game early.  We all know that if we want to do well, we have to look at the bigger picture and realize that there are times when sacrifices have to be made.  We worked hard, we learned plenty, and Jac made it interesting.  The very first time she wrote the word ”more” on my paper, and I know I’m not the only one who felt this way, I said, “More?!  What MORE does this woman want from me?!  I gave everything I had on this paper!”  But, I began to dig deeper and get a better understanding of the lessons we were being taught and finally “more” became automatic, well, most of the time.

This course has given me a great deal of knowledge and confidence that will help me as I take the leap into the future and begin my career as a paralegal.  That knowledge will also be quite handy when I’m watching episodes of “Law and Order” and “The Good Wife.”

As we prepare to go our separate ways and seek employment in different aspects of the law, I am reminded of the words of our first President of the United States, George Washington, “I cannot tell a lie,” this paralegal course was hard, intense, frustrating, stressful, and even terrifying at times, but it’s a fantastic course.  I am thrilled that I completed it, and, in the end, the juice was worth the squeeze.


Valedictorian Speech by Cheryl Mailloux — Summer Weekend Class 2013

As I was going through my notebook from class trying to decide what topic to talk to you all about today, there was one thing in particular that stood out.  And, no, I’m not referring to all the stars and smiley faces that earned me this opportunity to stand here in front of you all today.  I’m talking about the word “MORE.”  The first time Jac scribbled “MORE” in green marker on my homework assignment, I was pretty irritated.  I thought, “Really, after all the time I put into that assignment, couldn’t she just accept it as is?”  As the weeks went by, I asked myself, “What is it about this word ‘more’ that I find so irritating?  Wasn’t the fact that I wanted more, the reason I took this class in the first place?  Wasn’t the reason I moved last year from the comfort of the suburbs to the city because I wanted something better?  I wanted more.”

I attended the information session prior to signing up for this class.  At that session, I watched Jac as she  was somehow capable of grading papers while, at the same time, listening for questions that she may need to address.  It was pretty clear to me, after that session, that this instructor was a high achiever who would expect a lot from her students.  If it wasn’t clear to me then, it certainly became clear to me on the first day of class when Jac told us a little about herself: not only was she a lawyer, but she had graduated early from law school while raising 9 children and working at a law firm, and we would be her 34th graduating class as an instructor of this paralegal course.

Yet, even after having this realization, I still continued to get a little miffed when “MORE” was scribbled on my homework.  I recall one assignment, seven weeks into the class, I got an answer wrong at midweek.  So, I found the answer I thought Jac was looking for and replaced my original answer with this one.  I was shocked when I still got the answer wrong.  It turns out that the correct answer required both my original answer as well as the 2nd answer that I settled on.  UGH!  Why had I limited myself to only one answer?  I should have had that figured out by then!

Jac arranged for all these great guest speakers to generously give up their time to come inspire us by sharing their knowledge and experiences.  I remember thinking “Why do they do it?  What’s in it for them?”  I’m sure it had to be some reason other than the Starbucks gift card they were going to receive from Jac at the end.  One speaker in particular seemed very uncomfortable in his role at the front of the class.   Although it was always cold in that classroom, he kept wiping his brow.  Obviously, he was outside of his comfort zone.  But that speaker said something that day.  In addition to all the other great information he provided, at the end, he said something that the military had taught him.  He said, “Always remember, you are capable of more than you realize.”  So these guest speakers, the majority of whom were successful lawyers and paralegals, were still finding ways to do more.

Thank you, Jac, for not allowing us to get complacent and for always pushing us by continuing to write “MORE” on our assignments all the way up to through the final piece of graded homework.  And to my classmates, when you are in your new careers or anytime in life when your doubt that you have any more to give, remind yourself what our teaching assistant, Jen, said to us, “I got through that class, I can get through this too.”

Salutatorian Speech by Alex Trump — Summer Weekend Class 2013

I’ll try to keep this sweet and simple. This class has been an amazing journey for all of us. Jac has a great way of teaching in ways that are beneficial to real life, not only from an educational stance. I’m pretty sure her mark and the experiences we’ve had in this class will be branded in our brains forever.

Some of the best experiences are recollecting on the array of personalities we students brought to make this 11 week course memorable. Rosemary had a great strong sense of individuality and was great at debate. She did not back down and stood up for what she believed in. To counter that, Jenny had a sweet disposition with cupcakes decorating the nametag she had in class. Nametag decor was a big part of class, you want to stand out. Sparkle had the first decorated nametag that stood out. The best word to describe her nametag and her personality would be SPARKLE-ICIOUS.

Tanja was great at introducing internationalism and German culture into our class; people didn’t draw a parallel between Cinderella and Germany. Keeping an open-mind and learning quickly is important for the paralegal. Quentin brought a great laugh here and there when women guest speakers turned him down for a date. Keeping a sense of humor is key to keeping your sanity when put under a lot of pressure, as we all were throughout the duration of this course. Jac always made sure we were under a great deal of pressure.

Monica reminded us how we are human and we all make mistakes. In mid-week, her small mishaps seemed to stick out more– but really we all learned the value of having our mistakes flagged and corrected during those mid-week sessions. Each of us got hounded at one point, whether it was at mid-week study session or during class. Ashley was the only one who would hide behind someone else’s chair if it was her turn for homework to be reviewed during mid-week sessions.

Maya laughed and kept the class up to date with technological advances, such as Snapchat. Casey was the patriotic person of the bunch, decorating his nametag with the American Flag all over. Maria brought a practical approach and reminded everyone what needed to be done. Lauren was great at oral reports and I wish I could stand in front of a group of people and speak as eloquently as she (especially now). Sandy was a driven individual that made the class fun because her spunky attitude. Cheryl was a sweetheart, and brought beautiful scrumptious cupcakes to class. Gina had an expressive personality that helped us understand how she thought on certain issues. Lastly, Karen was the momma bear of the class that kept it all together. She always had questions to ask our guest speakers and always had something positive to say.

This class has been a wonderful experience and it’s still offering life lessons. For example, I would never have made a speech like this in front of an audience if it weren’t for being in Jac’s class. I believe it’s safe to say that we, as Jac’s 34th paralegal class, are forever in her debt. She has done a great job of teaching and preparing us for the paralegal profession. Thank you so much.

Salutatorian Speech by Alicia Caballero – Winter 2013

Good afternoon. Family and friends, thank you for joining us on this special day, one that my fellow graduates and I will always remember as gratifying. More importantly, thank you for your support, your patience, and for remembering that we do indeed still exist after these 8 weeks in Jac’s paralegal class. To my fellow paralegals and to Jac Brennan, phew. We did it.

I can speak to you all today about how challenging this course was, or describe the sound of our stomachs falling out of our butts on the first day of class. I could even go into detail about every anxiety I felt sitting around a table at Jac’s house, watching her eyebrows rise in disbelief as she examines homework and praying that she was not looking at mine. But I won’t do that. No one could ever understand our experience unless you were a student of Jac’s and besides, what we learned will always be more important than what we were afraid of. So today, I would like to speak to you about a few things we all learned, from the law to the words we realized we could never spell, and what I learned about myself.

One of Jac’s favorite sayings and something that she truly lives by is that words are important. For example, never say the United States Constitution is cray. In fact, don’t ever say cray. You should probably stay away from hopefully and per se, too. Yeah, DEFINITELY stay away from those. Also, I know that it seems difficult, but learn how to spell your own name.

As recently as last weekend, I remember having a conversation with a few of my classmates about how I would be able to transition from one of Jac’s soldiers into an actual paralegal. To be honest, I’ve had this concern for several weeks. Of course, I knew that hearsay is hearsay, even when it’s hearsay. I knew that whenever I was in doubt, I should just open up my O’Connor’s book. I knew the four elements of a contract, the definition of a consumer in the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and that the FDA thinks 20 maggots in a 3 ounce can of mushrooms is safe, but was this enough? My question was answered when I attended a grievance hearing that Jac examined on Tuesday afternoon. Throughout the hearing, I caught myself screaming objections in my head at both attorneys. I remember thinking geez, can this attorney hurry it up? We still have two more witnesses to examine! I found myself creating questions in my head about what the attorney should have asked, or how someone could have assisted her in better preparing for this hearing. I walked out of that building with a feeling that in my past 25 years of living, I had never felt. I finally knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.

There is no one else to thank for that except for the one and only Jac Brennan. One of the most important things I’ve learned from this class is that it is never too late to meet a person who could turn your life upside down, in a good way. I think I can speak for all of my fellow classmates when I say that there is no one in this world who can do what she does, who can teach the way she does, and who can ultimately bring out the best in you. I would not be standing here today, in this position, with this confidence, with this strength, if someone else taught this class. A million thank yous would never be enough, Jac. Also, if you ever decide to leave the field of law, I think you should convince the creators of All My Children to give it another go. Erica Kane needs another half-sister.

To my classmates, believe me when I say that I am honored to have taken this journey with you. At one point, each of you has been there to comfort me along the way. Yes, I took comfort in knowing that you were struggling just as much as I was. But to be honest, we all took comfort in each other. Everyone was always willing to give a helping hand, no matter how much time it took away from completing our own work. I am proud of every single one of you and as skeptical as I was on the first day of class, I know that we will all continue to keep in touch after today.

Speech by  Sarah Lange –  Summer 2012

Thank you. I dislike public speaking very much, that’s just a fair warning for you all. And I’ve actually been Valedictorian once before, I was the Valedictorian of my homeschooling class of one. So that speech really helped with my fears of public speaking. Welcome family and friends, we are all grateful that you came here today to celebrate with us. To my fellow graduates of the University of Houston’s Summer 2012 Paralegal Weekend Program – Also known as the busiest, get no sleep, see no friends, read until your eyes cross, study until your brain hurts, doubt your intelligence at every turn, and most intense 8 weeks of your life. Personally, I think that first title is way too boring, and the second one is way too long, so a more apt name would be Jac’s Bootcamp for your Brain. We have gone through an intense, driven program that does not leave room for error or slacking for even a day…..and we have all made it here today. So…..yea!

Today we celebrate becoming paralegals. And while most everyone who attends graduations usually dread the ceremonies because they are boring, or not interesting enough, or way too long….it is a very special ceremony for us graduates. For though we have completed the course, turned in all our homework (and there was a lot of it), and taken all our tests, this final meeting as a class and receiving our certificates is meant as a symbol to say, “You are ready.” And trust me when I say, my fellow graduates and I are all ready.

Not one of us would have made it here today without the support of all of you, our family and friends, or without the support of our fellow classmates. This class taught us so much more than just the knowledge we need in order to work as a paralegal; it taught us to work as a team, to always be there to lend a helping hand to a classmate who didn’t understand something, or maybe to simply listen while someone vented (a crucial part of making it through this course and remaining sane). It taught us to care about what is happening in our towns, cities, and government, and to be a better citizen.

I can’t speak for my classmates, but believe they all would agree, that we also owe a huge thank you to you, Jac. After class ended that last Sunday, I went home to write you a thank you email but decided to save my thank you for this speech. Though your teaching methods could be described as intense by some, I loved it. You pushed me, you challenged me, and you demanded my absolute best throughout the entire 8 weeks of class. During the nights I felt like slacking off and thinking, maybe I’ll just relax one night instead of studying another flashcard or reviewing and rewriting this paper for the twelfth more time, it was knowing the exact look I’d get from you while grading my homework or tests that made me continue to push myself. It was nothing you ever needed to say (because the scratching of your red pen would say it loudly enough), it was a look that said very simply, ‘Are you kidding me with this?’ And through it all, it’s evident that you genuinely care about all of us, and want us all to succeed. So thank you, so much.

Though this summer was a blur that seemed to pass by all at once, I don’t think we will ever forget the first day of class, when we all sat there thinking to ourselves, O.M.G. what did I get myself into? For those of you who weren’t there, I would really love to walk around and reenact what we went through, but some of you might leave here in tears. Right then we all knew what it would take for us to complete and pass this course, and it was a little intimidating. Of course, nothing compares to how intimidating midweeks were. So helpful and yet such a humbling experience to have your homework publicly combed through with a fine-tooth comb in front of your classmates. Not one of us was free from an ‘Are you insane?’ moment, we all got it at some point. But yet again, the opportunity to have mid-weeks just goes to show how much Jac cares about her students’ success. What other class gives an opportunity to have your homework checked before you turn it in for grading? I know that my ending average would have been nowhere near where it was if it were not for midweeks.

I’m thankful to have had each and every one of you as my classmates and I have fond memories of the times we’ve had in class. Martha, oh Martha, Martha, Martha, none of us will ever think about a hypothetical, what would we do first if we ended up in jail situation again. Avani, if there was an award given in this class for the person who changed the most, you should get it. We all got to watch you grow and build more confidence, and cheered for you along the way.  Oma, besides putting us all to shame with your public speaking because none of us ever wanted to follow you, it was a rare treat to have a student in class that had the ability to make chicken sounds. Now for Andrew, where is Andrew? Amber, you always kept us entertained with your donut, brownie, or kolache dances, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you have in store for your ‘I received my certificate’ dance. Manny, who relieved so much pressure from everyone before the final by entering class like a rockstar would enter a concert stage. You are always so happy, and were always able to make us all smile no matter how stressed we were. Though Mica is not able to be here today, it was refreshing to hear her say every week, thank you, ma’am, to Jac even when her homework was just ripped apart. And I will not name names with the next one, but if we didn’t know how to spell Obama before, we will certainly all remember after someone got it wrong.

It was truly a pleasure having each and every one of you as classmates and being able to complete this class alongside you. I actually found myself missing it when Saturday came around. I thought to myself, well what am I going to do in my free time now? I never knew how much free time I actually had! It’s crazy.

But this graduation, as well as being a celebration for all that we’ve accomplished, is also a parting for us. Friendships have been made and will continue with us, now it is time for us all to go out and become the best paralegals we can be. While what we have accomplished the eight weeks of this course is impressive, I hope it’s small compared to what we will accomplish in the future. Congratulations to all of my fellow students and to all of their friends and families for helping encourage and support not just a summer education program – but a life changing experience.  Thank you.

Speech by Valedictorian Jennifer Draught – Summer 2012

Good afternoon graduates, friends, and family

Don’t worry; today I am not going to offer you any real advice or trite nuggets of wisdom.  My purpose today is to have a few laughs, show gratitude, and to celebrate this moment of accomplishment in our lives.

With every task Jac gave us I would always ask myself “what is she trying to teach us with this assignment?” Usually it was an easy answer but often I really had to dig deep. Why the heck is she making us play the role of a lawyer for a mock trial, we’re never going to do that as a paralegal. Ok, well now we’ll know how to prepare them for trial.

Or why is she making us sit here in class for hours and look up Supreme Court cases on Westlaw with no help?  Maybe it was just to teach us to work together and to see who would try to sleep through it.  I’m not sure I ever came up with an answer I feel good about on that one.  I wonder if she was just getting us back for all the times we spelled definitely wrong, didn’t know all the Supreme Court Justices, and said “I have a question” instead of just raising our hands.

So, in preparation for this speech I tried the same trick when I felt like this wasn’t getting anywhere.  What I’m taking away from this speech is that while I think I’ll make a pretty good paralegal I am NOT going to be a speech writer, comedian, or motivational speaker.  Thank you for that last bit of confidence Jac.

On a serious note… Thank you for setting the bar high. This feels like a real accomplishment because you made it a challenge. It doesn’t feel like a “Hey, thanks for showing up, everybody deserves a trophy” kind of accomplishment.  All of us who have stock in Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, or Starbucks are thrilled.  My caffeine consumption has tripled since I started this class. I’m so glad that you kept us busy enough that we didn’t have time to buy any stock in Facebook either. Thank you for selecting Benjamin Thomas as Prince Charming for the mock arbitration, he was awesome!  I would have loved to see him rockin’ some glass slippers. Thank you for giving us 19 tests in a row, one on each of our class days. On behalf of Wende, (who is expecting her first child in a few months) she will now think that childbirth is no big deal. Thank you for helping me realize how much of my life was being wasted on stupid things like sleeping, eating, and talking to my family. I have seen the light!

Thank you to my classmates for pushing me to be the best I could be. Thank you for your kind words, for helping me think through a problem, and for being a team player. I’d especially like to thank Marsha for messing up some of her homework just a tad bit more than I did. For those of you who don’t know, Marsha and I had the exact same final grade. The tie breaker was that I had a bit higher homework grade and homework counted as more of our overall grade. Seriously, Marsha thank you for being such stiff competition.  You are so graceful and kind. I truly do consider this a tie but I’ll certainly use that whole valedictorian title to my advantage whenever possible! I think it’ll come in particularly handy when talking to my teenage son about his grades. I’d also like to thank the powers that be at the University for helping us to see so much of this lovely campus by having us meet in 4 different locations.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of our friends and family. Your support during this challenging time was invaluable.  In order to do well in this course we had to let a lot of things go and you all took up the slack. We know you did more than you had to and most of you even did it without whining too much. My husband, Rick, and son, Tristen, quizzed me every Wednesday and Sunday night and never made me feel like they would rather be doing something else.  And of course, thank you to my parents for always expecting me to give it my best shot but loving me even if I failed.  John F. Kennedy said “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

In closing, I would like to share with you something the late Steve Jobs expressed at a commencement speech a few years ago.  He had heard the quote “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you will most certainly be right.” That lead him to ask himself every morning “If today were the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do today?”  If the answer was no for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something. Steve said “Remembering that I’ll be gone soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Remembering that you only have so long here is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Congratulations to you all. I hope you have the courage to follow your heart. Thank you.

Speech by Valedictorian Will Prince – Winter 2012

Good afternoon.  I would like to thank everyone for being here today to share this important event with those of us who survived the last two months, especially my wife of over twenty years, Sharon, and my wonderful twin daughters, Lauren and Justine.  (No, they’re not identical.  Duh!)  As many of you have heard from your friends and loved ones who are among the graduates here today, the attrition rate was pretty high for this class.  Along the way, I think we lost about a third of our classmates, which tells you a little something about the class.  Those of us who survived to receive our certificates today have spent eight weeks working for the toughest, pickiest, most difficult lawyer for whom we will ever have to work, and we are definitely better for the experience.  (By the way, “definitely” is spelled D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y.  Remember that.  Jac will test you before you get cake.)  Seriously, Jac, you’re not as tough as you think you are, and at the risk of ruining your reputation, you’re actually a bit of a sweetheart.

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t really know what to expect of this class.  I’ve had some pretty tough academic experiences, and I’ve always done well in school.  I expected to do well in this class, but I’m not sure I expected that I would have to put so much effort into it.  The work itself was not difficult, but there was just so much of it.  The schedule was very compressed, and the work load was high.  We had the pedal to the metal the whole time, and there were no lulls to catch our breath.  That part was tough, but that was also (I think—perhaps) the best part of the class, certainly the most valuable.  We’ve had a trial by fire—a real taste of what our careers might be like in the future.  For that, I offer my heartfelt thanks to the director of the University of Houston paralegal program—my instructor, mentor, and friend, Jac Brennan.

To my classmates, I offer my thanks to you for pushing me through these last eight weeks, especially Jeanine for giving me a run for my money.  You’re a good bunch of people, and I’m lucky to know you.  I hope that we’ll remain in touch long after today.  As most of you know, I’ve spent some time in our criminal justice system—and I don’t mean that I’ve served time.  As hokey as it may sound, you are about to enter a noble profession.  People who work in our nation’s legal system play an important role that supports the very underpinning of our society.  It can be difficult, at times genuinely daunting, but it is also very rewarding.  Go out there and work hard, do right, and have fun.  Make that your mantra—work hard, do right, have fun.  Make Jac proud, and make me proud.  Thank you.

Speech by Salutatorian Marsha Powell – Summer 2012

Good afternoon.  I want to say welcome to our guests.  Thank you for coming out today to show your support for your family and friends, as we graduate today.  We do appreciate it.

I want to say thank you to a few people.  First of all, of course, to our instructor, Jac Brennan, who has taken us from paralegal want-a-bes to actual graduates of the program today.  She has ruled us with her iron will and strokes of her red pen.  So much so that I don’t think I will never use etc. or … again without thinking first about her list of pet peeves.  I know it will be a while before I can read the newspaper without thinking, “could this be a bonus question?”

I also want to thank my own family who were very supportive of me while I was probably neglectful of them.  They were really good about leaving me along for hours so I could study or do the homework.  They also had to eat out a lot more.   But I really don’t think they minded that part.  I especially want to thank my son, Steven, who was my information technology go-to person during this course.  I’m from the days of typewriters and carbon paper so computer technology is not my forte.  He helped me a lot when I had computer problems and I learned a lot from him.

To my classmates, I want to say We Made It!  I know a couple of months ago we were really worried we might not be able to handle all the workload.  And I have to say this has been one of the most demanding and difficult courses I have ever taken in my life.  But, we are all better persons from having taken this class; and we have Jac again to thank for that.

To those of you who had jobs and worked during the class, or had small children and families to deal with, or English wasn’t your first language, or all the other emergencies that came up; and in the end, your name was on the board with a B or better average, my hat goes off to you.  That is truly an accomplishment and you should be proud of yourselves.  I don’t know that I would be standing here today if I had had to take this class while I was still working or when my kids were young.

So in closing I would like to say good luck to all of you.  I hope we can keep in touch and network.  I will miss the class and the camaraderie.  I won’t miss the homework!  But I will miss all of you.  Thanks for being there on this journey.  It’s been a great ride.  Good luck with your future careers.  Thank you.

Speech by Salutatorian Mark Koelling – Fall 2011

I would like to thank our guests for coming out today.  I know this isn’t an ideal way to spend one’s Sunday.

To my fellow students: I enjoyed going to class with all of you.  I loved our class’s dynamic and how, even as the course wore on and we fractionated into our own groups, there was still a certain gestalt to it all.  You provided what by all means should have been a dry subject with great humor, and, as much of a slog as the course could be, I’d do it all again if I could take you all with me.

Jac, you were a wonderful instructor, I learned a great deal from you, and I’d take any course you offer.

Speech by Salutatorian Adrian Wiltshire – Fall 2011

I can’t speak for my classmates, but when I first started this program, I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it.  It’s hard enough juggling your daily responsibilities so throwing in this tremendous course load was a real challenge.  It was truly exhausting!

But as the weeks continued, even though the homework load grew, it became less of a juggling act and more of a personal challenge.  A challenge to set new goals for myself, to aim higher than I ever thought I could, to achieve more than I thought was possible at this stage in my life, and to get that beloved smiley face with the starry eyes at midweek.

Now here we are at the end.  Can you believe it?  We actually survived!  Look at us!  Look at what we have accomplished as individuals, as classmates, and as a team.  We have so much to be proud of and we have an amazing teacher to be thankful for.  She pushed us to our limits so that we could be successful in this class and after.  She made us look at things with a whole new perspective.  She has given us the knowledge we need to create a new future for ourselves.  And if nothing else, she has made sure we know how to spell the word definitely!

Thank you Jac and thank you to my classmates.  I will actually miss spending my weekends with you people!

Speech by Salutatorian Tiffany Carroll – Fall 2011

Fellow Students, Family and Friends,

Welcome to you all!  I came into this class wanting the certificate.  I’ve been working in a law office doing paralegal work as a “legal assistant” for four years now and I came in ready to make a change.   Well, my job hasn’t changed a bit, but what did change was me.   When I graduated from college almost 10 years ago, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I eventually went to work at a law firm, and I really enjoyed it.   I’m a good writer and a terrible public speaker, so it was a good fit for me.  Seriously, I’m the kind of person who practices a phone call, because I get so nervous.

So, I decided to become a paralegal, and signed up for this class.  I wanted the weekend class, but thankfully it was full.   I was looking for a little more money and little more respect.    I got so much more, more than I could have ever expected.   There is no way that I can express to any of you what the class has taught us all.  But the graduates of this class know what I am talking about.    Sure, we know the legal stuff.   We know property law, probate law, all about contracts and family law.  We know how to draft motions and respond to discovery.  And we know all about employment law and the ADA, but what we really learned goes beyond the law.  We learned exactly how hard we can push ourselves and just what we are capable of achieving.   I remember thinking each day, how will I continue to juggle kids and everything they have going on, work and this class, but I did it.  We all did it.  No matter what each of us had going on in our personal lives, we all made it through.  Two of us, Michelle and Clara, even got married during this class.  And, Sofia has been pregnant and was not here today, because she is either in labor or having the baby now!  I couldn’t imagine, you guys are all awesome.

On the first day, the former students come in and they tell you that you will all be friends when this is all over and these people in your class will mean so much to you when it’s over.   And I thought, really?  Do I have anything at all in common with these people?  I figured that most of them didn’t have a family at home like I did.  And I assumed that wouldn’t fit in with any of them.  Turns out I was wrong on all counts.  Everyone was wonderful.  There is not person in this class that I would not consider a friend and a blessing to our group.  I have made some wonderful friends.  I will remember each of you always and I will consider each one of you to be my friend forever!

A few weeks ago, Felicia, who sits next to me, asked me if I had always been a good student since was on the board again.  And I thought a lot about that.   Really I’ve always been book smart.  Like most of you, I can open a book and find the answer pretty quickly.  But being a paralegal is so much more than that.  You have to be able to open the book, find the answer and interpret it 50 different ways.  You have to find the best way to mold it for your situation and how to mitigate the bad stuff.  You have to figure how to explain it to an attorney in a precise and concise way, without sounding like a moron.  And, most of all, you have to be willing to let someone else take credit for all your hard work.  It’s not an easy job, but it’s part of who we are now.

I want to thank my mom for always listening to me when I was so stressed out and always making me feel better, no matter what, and my dad for always believing in me.  Huge thanks to my husband for helping me out with the kids so much and for always telling me that he was proud of me.  You never get tired of hearing that.

I want to thank Jac for being such a great teacher.  We all think you are amazing.  You did promise that you make some of us cry and I never saw anyone cry, so I am disappointed about that.  I think we are just tougher than most, although I can’t remember anyone even getting upset at you.  You have lots of fun stories from other classes about crazy things that happened, and we may never be one of those classes with all the great stories, but we will always be the first weekday class ever.   And, apparently, Jac’s favorite!! J

To my classmates and fellow graduates, thanks for making this a great experience.   I hope that get out there and attack your paralegal careers with same determination that you attacked your homework.  It’s just too bad that Jac won’t be there to give out smiley faces at midweek when you finish a motion.  I wish you all the best and good luck always.  Congratulations to you each of you and thanks to everyone for coming today!


Speech by Valedictorian Matthew Blanscet – Winter 2011

Thank you all again for coming out today to celebrate the accomplishments of the Spring 2011 graduating class of the UH Paralegal Studies Program.  It’s been an intense and demanding 8 weeks for all of my fellow classmates sitting here today.  At times we all questioned whether or not we could make it each week, but we made it through to the end and here we sit today celebrating our success.

Most, and usually all, of our free time was consumed by this course as we worked on homework, studied for tests and worked on extra credit.  On behalf of my fellow classmates we express sincere thanks to each of our family members, friends, and coworkers for your support, patience and understanding as we pushed through this course.  Thank you for understanding when we didn’t call, email or text you.  And thank you for listening and offering words of support during the times we did call or email you to simply complain about the course’s workload or when we questioned how we could possible survive this course.

We also must thank our incredible instructor, Jac Brennan, for pushing us to do and learn more than we ever thought possible.  It was clear by the end of the first day that this class would not be a course that you could simply show up each day and expect to earn a certificate at the end of the 8 weeks.  Each week Jac filled our minds with an immense amount of knowledge and information.    At first Jac’s expectations for this course seemed extreme and overwhelming.  But as each week went by we found ourselves learning and accomplishing more than we ever realized possible.

The knowledge gained from this course is invaluable.  Not only did we learn how to be better paralegals and learn a tremendous amount about the legal industry, we also learned to be more aware of our world, our country and to pay attention to current events going on around us.  We became better people through this course and will always carry this wealth of knowledge with us.  Thank you, Jac, for teaching us all of these things and for showing us the potential inside each of us.  Thank you for making us more aware and to appreciate the great country we live in.

To my fellow classmates, I want to say it has been a very positive experience to go through this course with each you.  We all enrolled this course for different reasons and came from many different backgrounds, but as time went by we managed to find similarities and began to bond and support each other as we developed friendships that will last beyond this course.  As the course went on we laughed with each other (occasionally at each other), we cringed when we saw our test grades or when Jac reviewed our homework at mid-weeks, but through it all we learned so much about each other.  It was an honor to meet and get to know each and every one of you over the last 8 weeks and I hope to stay in touch with you.  I wish each of you the absolute best in your future endeavors.  Again, thank you all!

Speech by Salutatorian Joni Ries – Winter 2011

On behalf of all the graduating class and faculty of the University of Houston’s Paralegal Course, let me welcome all of our families and friends.  We are all very happy you came to celebrate this occasion with us because I know each of you helped to get us where we are.

My daughter Erica encouraged me constantly no matter how tired I was.  She actively looked for opportunities to help and cheerfully volunteered her assistance in any way from printing off papers and driving them over to my house because my printer broke to driving over to the vet’s office to pick up medicine because I didn’t have the time.  I wouldn’t have had food in the house or clean towels or a vacuumed floor if my son hadn’t taken over for me.  My friend, Jennifer, was my never-ending cheering section, always ready with her support and encouragement.  She made a whole bunch of frozen dinners for me before class started so I didn’t have to worry about cooking anything.   My assistant Traci, never said have a good weekend because she didn’t want to remind me that I didn’t HAVE a weekend.

The point of my personal stories is to show examples of what I know each of our families and friends were doing for us.  Each one of you out there picked up the slack, showed understanding, had extra patience—whatever it took.  You all made those sacrifices to help us get through this and we sincerely appreciate it.

I would also like to say congratulations to each and every member of my class.  I am very, very proud of you because I know what you went through and what it took to get here.  This is quite an accomplishment.

The first morning Jac explained to us how the grading system worked.  If you got an “A”, you didn’t have to take the final.  If you got a “B”, you got your name on the board, and if you got a “70” then you passed.  Then we got started with class.  I remember thinking when we started that I won’t have to take the final, piece of cake.  By the mid-morning break, I’m thinking I’m pretty sure I can get my name on the board, piece of cake.  By lunchtime, I’m thinking a 70 really isn’t so bad, I should be able to pass.  I hope?  Lots of sleepless nights later, here we are.

I’ll remember each of you though and I’ll miss looking across the room at y’all every Saturday and Sunday.  So, in honor of one last time to go around the room, I’ll start with Namrata.

Namrata is impressive.  This class put a lot of emphasis on choosing, understanding, and communicating by using the right word and English is Namrata’s second language.  Namrata certainly showed her mastery of English and this class by staying about the “A” line every single week without fail.

Lydia is the quiet one who just gets the job done.  She was always calm, cool, and collected.  Lydia reminds me of the saying, “Never let them see you sweat.”

Jamie had legal experience coming into our class and she was always glad to share what she knew with anyone.

Christina is perseverance at its best.  Christina was determined that this class wasn’t going to get the best of her and it didn’t.

Beth always had a smile for each of us.  Beth had a kind word for everyone.  She was always positive, encouraging, and ready to help anybody.

Raymond gave the best oral reports.  You could just tell from his reports that he thoroughly enjoyed learning new things and that he was enthusiastic about sharing it with everybody.

Kelvin, nobody is as smoooooth as Kelvin.  Kelvin is definitely the charmer of the class.  No matter how much Jac ripped apart his homework at midweek or his question, he would just put on the best smile and offer the smoothest excuse.

Jerry, no one will forget your “I’m not lying” shirt on the witness stand, your Red Bull, and how you always made us laugh.  Jerry has a gift for quick wit.  He can fire off the jokes and he can take the jokes right back with the same great sense of humor.

Eduardo, you were pretty low key and you were a great straight man for Jerry’s jokes.  You reminded me of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.  You just kept your head down and did your job until you had the last laugh and got your name on the board.

Rose, I’ll never forget your tenacity.  A lesser person might have given up–because Jac can be intimidating–but Rose didn’t let that stop her.  She braved the storm to keep asking questions until Rose was satisfied with the answer.

For Deanna I need to explain that we were very fortunate to have many wonderful speakers throughout the program and Jac always wanted us to ask questions to show them we appreciated their coming to speak to us and to show that we were interested in what they had to say.  The only problem was most of the time the speakers were so good, it was hard to think of something they didn’t already cover.  We could always count on Deanna to bail us out with some great questions.

Connie is a role model for upcoming classes.  She worked so hard every class with the goal of getting her name on the board.  Once that happened, she didn’t stop.  She kept working just as hard toward an “A” so she didn’t have to take the final.  She got that “A” on the very last weekend before the exam.

Jason was totally dedicated to the class.  He plays in a band and you know that comes with a lot of late nights and hauling equipment around to all hours of the night.  There were times when Jason came to class after a gig the night before with maybe an hour’s sleep.  He never missed a class and he was on the board.

Nicole is our change of career person with a lot of go get’em enthusiasm.  She has lots of retail experience and she wasn’t intimidated at all about jumping in and trying a field that was totally new and foreign to her.

And Matt—Matt and I work together so it’s been like 24/7 togetherness for us and yet we are still speaking to each other.  We even have lunch plans scheduled for next week.  We decided to take the course together because we knew something this intense was going to be brutal.  I think we couldn’t have made a better decision.  We supported each other and we inspired each other to do our very best.

Finally, on behalf of the graduating class, I would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to Jac Brennan, our instructor.  In spite of her toughness and in spite of the times we would sit there and cringe while she graded homework–cause you could just hear that pen scrawling across the paper and you’d just sit there and think, “Oh please, please, please don’t be my homework!”—we knew that this is a person who cares deeply about her students and wants us to be the best paralegals we can be.  Where else have you ever had a teacher who opened her home every week to go over the homework so we had a chance to learn from our mistakes first before we turned it in?  Where else can you find a teacher who will count an answer wrong because you said “prevent” instead of “prohibit” –and you counted two of my answers wrong on the first test because of that – to teach you that the meaning of words is important, even right down to the shades and nuances of meanings.  She told us yesterday that she absolutely loves her job and it shows.  Thank you, Jac, for your commitment to excellence.   Thank you to all our friends and families.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the program.

Speech by Valedictorian Hannah Tammen – Spring 2010

On our very first day, we were told by past graduates how challenging this class would be.  “Jac’s tough,” they told us, “but she pushes you to be your best.” For the past nine weeks, we’ve been in a mental boot camp designed to transform us into competent, successful paralegals.  During this time, our worlds have changed.  The word ‘discovery’ has taken on a new definition.  The word “more” will strike fear into even the bravest of our hearts for years to come.  And we will all forever remember, verbatim, the definition of hearsay.

This experience has been humbling for us all.  We did not know how much we did not know until Jac  told us.  We did not know just how incorrectly we had been using the word “hopefully.”  We did not know that we did not know how to use a semi-colon.  I really didn’t know I’d been spelling “calendar” wrong my entire life.

The demands of this class have taken up most of our time for the past nine weeks.  Without the understanding and support of our families and friends we never would have made it out with our sanity.  For that we thank them.

We thank our fellow classmates for all that we’ve done for each other.  We started out as strangers, but quickly we became a support network.  For everything from troubleshooting computer problems, to homework help, to quizzing each other before tests, we’ve been there. The characters that make up this class are unforgettable, and though we’ve been split into two for our mock trial, we complete this program as one family.  We made it through this challenge, and we did it together.

Finally, we thank Jac for her dedication to making us the best paralegals she possibly can.  We thank her for sharing her brilliant mind with us every weekend, and we thank her for opening her home to us at midweeks to keep us on the right track.  It’s true that Jac is tough.   I’d say she’s picky. On the first day, Jac told us to take down some notes on her pet peeves.  “Who is this woman?” I thought to myself.  “Who does that?”   Now we all know the answer to that question.  Jac Brennan does that.  Jac’s a lawyer, and lawyers have weird lists of pet peeves.  And if we want to work for lawyers, we’re going to have to get used to it. Not all of Jac’s lessons were spelled out in the pages of a power point.  But as the weeks went by it became more and more clear that Jac was training us not only to do the practical things that paralegals do, but to meet the high standards that will be set for us by the attorneys for whom we will go on to work.  Jac’s demand for nothing less than the right answer is a tool for success in the working world.

So now as we hopefully approach the job market, we bring with us our new skills and the confidence that we will all make great paralegals.  Best of luck to everyone.

Speech by Valedictorian Charlisa Head – Summer 2010

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming out to celebrate this wonderful occasion with the UH Paralegal Studies graduating summer class of 2010. It has been a very long 10 weeks for the students in this class. You know we’ve all been to school before so we have a pretty good idea of what is expected of us, so going into this class, so we thought would be no different. We were so wrong.

From the start, all of our expectations went out the window. We were told by former graduates how challenging this class can be. They told us, “You might as well forget about your personal life if you’re going to be completing this course.” They were so right. Jac is tough. She told us about our mistakes before we knew we had any. From spelling the word definitely wrong to using the word hopefully in the wrong context, these are simple mistakes I know we will all remember from this point forward.

This class has been an experience of a lifetime for all of us. We’ve gained so much knowledge and built so many friendships that will last many years to come.

This class has also been a strain on us as well as for our family and friends. And so first I want to thank God for giving us all the strength and wisdom to stick with it. Next, I want to thank all our family and friends for their support and encouraging words as we completed this course. We really could not have made it through without you. Finally, I want to thank Jac for believing in us and not giving up on us when we did things wrong after being told over and over again how to do it correctly. Jac is a really special person and we admire her hard work and dedication put towards this class.

I want to say congratulations to all of the graduates and I wish you the best of luck in your future.

Speech by Valedictorian Lori Busch – Fall 2010

Hello everyone, and thank you for coming out to celebrate the accomplishments of the Fall 2010 graduating class of the UH Paralegal Studies Program.

It has been a long, but rewarding 8 weeks for the students in this class. We came together from different backgrounds and we came together for many different reasons.  But our goal was the same:  To become a paralegal.

We were told from the beginning, that it would be tough and that to be successful in this class, we would need to put aside our personal lives, as well as give up any free time.  Surely not, we thought.  We believed we would file into class every Saturday and Sunday for 8 weeks and voila! — magically, we’d earn a certificate and become a paralegal.  Boy, were we wrong!  We didn’t know how much we didn’t know, but Jac took care of that.

We found out that we had been using the word “hopefully” incorrectly. And that “literally,” really does mean “literally,” and it shouldn’t be used any other way.  We have memorized the names of the 9 Supreme Court Justices, and we “definitely” know the definition of hearsay.

The demands of this class have taken up most of our time for the past eight weeks.  To all of our families and friends, we thank you for your support.  We had no idea how much this course would consume us. We couldn’t have done it without your help and understanding!

Fellow classmates:  We did it!  We survived Jac!  We appreciated each others help and encouragement in so many ways over these past weeks.  Just knowing that we were all hunkered down in the trenches together, and knowing we weren’t alone in this, was oddly comforting. We encouraged each other to persevere.  We laughed and we cried, but most importantly, we survived.

And Jac.  We all thank you so much for being you.  You were relentless in getting your points across and in shoehorning massive amounts of information into our brains!  All of us were shell shocked at the beginning, but we grew to know what you were expecting from us, which turned out to be more that we were expecting from ourselves. We learned to listen, which we will need to do in our new careers as paralegals.  Words are important.  We learned to dot every i and cross every t, because in the real world, that is what will be expected of us.  We learned that we can exceed expectations instead of merely just “meeting” expectations.  We learned to be aware of the world around us — to know current events, to know our world leaders, and to know who the leaders of this country are, because it is important that we know this.   We appreciated listening to all of the interesting guest speakers that you had come to speak to us. Your sense of humor is what got us through!  We appreciate all that you taught us and we are thankful that you pushed us to be the very best we can be.  Thank you, Jac!

I want to congratulate all of the graduates and I wish each of you the very best of luck in your new endeavor!  This is the class that Jac built!

Speech by Valedictorian Melissa Wethe- Winter 2009

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow graduates.

Well, we made it. And what a long, strange trip it has truly been. I can’t explain this adventure in words to those who haven’t lived it. But, I can try to explain. If you’re here supporting any of the graduates seated before me, you’re in the presence of one tough individual. This isn’t just A class. It’s THE class. It’s something we’ll all look back on for inspiration and remember if we did this, we can do pretty much anything.

Others have no idea.

It was brutal. Like a boot camp only with mind exercises but the same exhaustion, the same frustrations and the kind of drill sergeant that screams in your face when you spell definitely wrong or your cell phone rings in class.

This class was getting up while it’s still dark outside to take one last run through on your study flash cards.  This class was gathering in the hallway or in the lobby of the Hilton to guess what the bonus questions might be. It was sitting at midweeks and trying not to flinch when Jac screamed, “I TOLD YOU THIS IN CLASS!” It was finding enough time in the five days between classes to do three weeks worth of homework and study for two tests.

There are some things we won’t soon forget about Jac’s class.  Like huddling together in the frigid temperatures of the classroom (Jac kept the thermostat unreasonably low. I think I saw my breath once.

Or what about when Josh played the “baby lawyer” during our mock interviews or when Jennifer and I got spanked my Vickie and Kathryn during our mock arbitrations. Who could forget watching Adam’s perfect the art of sleeping in class? For those of you who have never witnessed it, he can sleep sitting completely upright. He almost looks awake. Like a horse sleeps kind of. It’s pretty amazing.

This class also brought many of us to our knees. I know I was brought to mine on several occasions. I learned to be accountable. I learned blaming myself for my mistakes, as much as it hurt, taught me never to make them again. I often felt stupid, defeated and scared of not passing. Just when I felt like I was on my last leg, Jac would pile on three extra homework assignments. Somehow I did it. Somehow we all did it.  I know we all thank our families for standing by us during our coffee-fueled late-night test cramming and relationship-testing homework assignments.

My amazing parents paid for me to take this class, as I know is the case with many others. They made this possible. I have no words to thank them properly.

And like many other spouses and significant others, my husband stepped in and played my role in our family for 18 weeks. I found out how lucky I am to have such a wonderful husband and understanding little girl. Their unwavering support was the root of my success.

And Jac, you crazy, militant, red head. This class is nothing without you. You bludgeon our intellect with a touch of humor and a dash of truth that can only be executed with grace by Jac Bleeping Brennan. Some of us loved you, some hated you, but it’s impossible not to have jaw-dropping respect for you. The life-lessons I learned from you will take me farther than my career could ever go. Thank you. It was an honor to be your student.

And all of us had our own personal goals. Some met, some missed by hair. Although at some point we were all plagued by sickness, health, family issues, printer screw ups and traffic, ultimately, it doesn’t matter how we got got to the finish line  or what the score was. All that matters is that we’re here. No of us got here without major sacrifice whether is was time, money, family commitments or sleep. Everyone who made it worked their tail off to be in this room at this moment. We got what we came for. And after all the blood, sweat, tears, gasps, groans, red ink and guest speakers, here we are and we’re better for it. We made it.

Melissa Vargas Wethe

Valedictorian – Winter 2009

Speech by Nathan Herrington Salutatorian – Winter 2009

I’d like to welcome everyone here today, to recognize the graduates of the Winter 2009 Paralegal class.  It took a lot of hard work, sleep deprived weekends, ink cartridges to get us to this point here today.  But, we persevered and here we are to celebrate.  As I looked back at this past ten weeks, it’s difficult to distill our experience into a few words.  A few of my classmates likened the experience to some sort of paralegal boot camp, and I think that description is appropriate.  It’s an intense, short-term training period, where you spend all of your time with your drill instructor.  So I’d like to introduce you to our squad today, and convey what the experience was like.

Our Drill Instructor is Jac Brennan.  And like any good drill instructor, that first day, she laid down the law, telling us what she expected. Things like never hand in any homework unless it’s in 12 point font.  Never use the word “hopefully” unless in fact you are full of hope. And never, ever raise your hand and say, “I have a question,” because of course you have a question, you’re raising your hand!  So after that first day, just like most new recruits we were all asking, “what in the world did we get ourselves into?”

After that initial shock began to wear off, the class started to come together.  We began to see that although we come from many different backgrounds and circumstances, we were all in this together.  Some came from afar just to be in this class, Zane from Equatorial Guinea, Adam from Nebraska, and Keisha from Louisiana.  We have two Kathy’s in the class who happen to both have unique accents.  Another Kathryn, was a former school teacher.  We also had two Laura’s and two Christan’s.  So it was tough getting names straight that first week.  There were many creative minds in this group.  Jennifer and Vicki had a knack for making up evidence. If no one had a question for a guest speaker we could always count on Steve to bail us out.  We had homework leaders like Tami who got everything right when the rest of us were scratching our heads.  Patti was cool under pressure and never let things get her down.  Lisa was a model of consistency keeping up her average throughout the course so she didn’t have to take the final.  The leadership of our group fell on three remarkable women, Melisa, Janet and Stephanie who juggled the demands of both work and the class, consistently ranking at the top.  We come from many different backgrounds but we all shared this experience together.   This is a great group and it’s my honor to be included with them.  The Chinese say a gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man perfected without trials.

In closing I’d like to thank all of those who supported us through these 10 weeks.  First, thanks to all of our families and friends for putting up with us, and possibly not seeing too much of us for these past 10 weeks.  We wouldn’t have been able to make it without you. And also thanks to our instructor Jac, who was tough, but made for a worthwhile journey that I’ll always remember.  And lastly, I want to thank my fellow classmates.  It’s been an honor. Thank you and congratulations to the winter 2009 paralegal class.

Speech by Valedictorian Mandy Wessels – Summer 2009

Good afternoon, and welcome to the graduation of the Summer 2009 paralegal class.  We made it!

Taking this class was an impulsive decision for me, which is not unusual in the least.  I was studying for the GMAT to go back to school and get my MBA when a thought struck, I could not think of what I would even do with it.  I started my research into other career paths, talked to a paralegal, liked Law and Order, so within a couple of days I was signed up for a paralegal program that started within a couple of weeks.

This impulsive decision turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made, not just professionally, but personally.

Each and every one of us graduating today has our own unique story, whether it be a career change, wanting to go on to law school, wanting a promotion in our current jobs, or just simply for our own personal knowledge.

We all started this journey together and we finished together. After the first day of class I remember calling my mother and saying, “You will never believe what I got myself into this time.” Of course she could believe it, but because she loves me she kept her mouth shut.  Every person in this class had the same reaction as I did.

Every one of us agree that the past nine weeks were some of the most challenging times mentally that we had ever had to endure. There was an obscene amount of homework each week, two tests to study for each weekend, two full days worth of information to remember that was foreign to many of us, and at the same time maintain our responsibilities in our personal lives. The latter was the first to go out the window for the majority of us.

Our emotions were a mixed bag.  Just when we thought we were alone in being overwhelmed, unmotivated, frustrated, we would show up to class and realize that every one of us was feeling these exact same emotions.  We learned how little sleep we could get by with (a wise individual once told us that only humans need sleep), we learned the power of caffeine and the power of a bottle of wine (at times the bottle from the corner store was just as good as the bottle from Specs).  We also learned that we needed each other and we were all in this together.

Our class is certainly a diverse group.  We come from different backgrounds and we all have different plans for our future, but these past nine weeks have made us put all of our differences aside and work toward the same goal, to survive this class.

Each of us played a part in this adventure.  Peggy, with her weekly emails titled “generic notes from midweek.”  She is a truly outstanding individual who will be an asset to any attorney that she works under.

Sylvester, whose eyes would light up each time the word “insurance,” was said aloud.  We also just witnessed that he has a love for “leading” questions.

Jen, who was my attorney in the mock arbitration, she is probably considered a genius according to any standardized test.  She doesn’t know it yet, but she is destined to be an attorney.

Janelle, the athlete, who casually mentioned to me, “you can always run the half marathon, it is ONLY 13 miles.”  Yeah, piece of cake.

Chris and vicodin,

Sarah the acronym queen

Jeri who holds a job that she truly loves.

Brian who remained calm and laid back the entire nine weeks.

Idell with her creative ideas and knowledge on “real trial” proceedings.

John who has such a unique personality that kept us laughing at the most unexpected times, and has a gift of baking the best cake that we have ever put in our mouths.

Ashley is the sweetest individual that I have ever met.

Amy was the one who actually understood “hearsay.”

Heath and his knowledge on land development.

Linda and her stories about her famous employer, Stanford Financial.

Diane who should pursue a business selling her guacamole and salsa.  She would make a fortune.

Gary who could drink five energy drinks and not get the jitters.

Marty who we could sit and listen to for hours, he is a wealth of information.  His wardrobe, predominantly from Italy, is to die for.

Kim, a sophomore at UT, who spent her summer attending this class.  I admire her for it.  She will go far in her career.

Finally Jacqueline, my lunch buddy.  She juggled a very demanding job with extended  work hours while completing the program and she survived.

We had a great group and created many lasting memories.  We have helped each other make it through.

And Jac, I wanted to say something profound, something that would express our gratitude, but fell short.  You inspire each individual that you come into contact with.  You have forced us to think “outside the box.”  You made us want to go above and beyond what we thought our limitations were.  Thank you from us all.  Because of you we have completed a challenging chapter in our lives, and we will soon begin another with more confidence and an open mind.  This class has such an outstanding reputation in the community because of you.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone present this afternoon: Our spouses, significant others, children, parents, and friends. Each one of you played a role in our success, whether it be for a sounding board, buying ink cartridges in the middle of the night without saying a word, grocery shopping, clarifying what a preposition is, or simple staying out of the room so we could be alone during our minor breakdowns.  You were there for us and we will never forget.

Of course I have to be a bit traditional and end with a quote, one that we have heard many times before, but is so fitting for this occasion.  In the words of Thomas Edison, “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

To the summer 2009 paralegal class, we did it!


Speech by Salutatorian Peggy Colligan – Summer 2009

Welcome to the graduation ceremonies for the 15th class of the University of Houston Continuing Education’s Center for Paralegal Studies.  This graduating class of twenty bright and energetic Paralegals finished the program.  We traveled far in this brief, yet intense, ten week period.

We all want to thank the many people who contributed to our success.  Many of us would not have made it without the support of our friends and family with.  Thank you for the little ways that you paved our roads to success, from providing dinners to going over notes to understanding our flares of temper and nerves and frustrations.

We learned a lot in our class, thanks to our determined leader, Jac Brennan.  She organized our weekend learn-a-thons and graciously opened her home for mid-weeks.  She taught us the importance of details, words, paying attention, and reading instructions.  Jac served as our supervising attorney during the 160 or so hours we devoted to class time.

We learned the structure of the United States legal system.  We learned about legal procedures and court structures.  We learned about specific laws and programs, with acronyms that range from ADA to ADEA to IDEA to SSI and SSDI.  We learned specific topics, such as real estate, business organizations, HIPAA and record retrieval issues, home owners associations, litigation from both the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s side, contracts and torts, family law, consumer law, elder law, and criminal law.  We learned how to prepare for a trial, seen in this morning in the Mock Trial.  We learned tools of the Paralegal trade, from O’Connor’s to ProDoc to Lexis to organizing notebooks and calendars to being nice and always saying “Thank You.”

The Summer 2009 UH Paralegal Certificate group will be known for many things, not the least of which was the table families and our version of “As the Paralegal Turns.”  While our name tags did not shine with bling, we brought lots of heart and cookies and cupcakes and cakes and guacamole and salsa.  We started many good friendships and began the basis for sound Paralegal careers.

So, once again, I say “Welcome” to our graduation ceremonies and “Thanks” for all the support you have shown us.  We accomplished our goal of completing the paralegal certificate, now we turn to achieving our next goals.  Congratulations to the graduates and thanks again.

Salutatorian Cynthia Capers’ speech: – Fall 2009

Welcome to the graduation of the Fall 2009 Paralegal class.  Whew, we made it!

We made it thanks to all of you who are present – and some who are not.  You helped us by picking up the chores we could no longer do as we wrote memos, cooking us food so our energy levels were high enough to try one more O’Connors question, and listening to us as we voiced our frustrations when Westlaw timed out on us one more time. Each of us today wishes to thank our family and friends for supporting us as we went through this class.  We know that without you we would not be here today.

Of course, Jac could have made it easier on us.  But then we couldn’t have become who we are without her high standards.  Jac Brennan is an amazing teacher:  she gives of her time and was always willing to make suggestions on changes – and there were many! Who in this class hasn’t e-mailed or chatted a question to Jac – even at 3 a.m.?  Jac also pushed us to go beyond what we previously thought were our limits.  We know now how much stronger we are and we know we can do anything that gets put in front of us.  We in the class definitely  want to thank you for giving so much of yourself – you joined in getting through all the interesting changes this semester and there’s no other teacher we’d have had as much fun sitting with outside waiting for an hour to get into a classroom.

And what are some of these things?

Well, there is a lot about the law that we learned during this class.  Enough to know when the Alderman text was perhaps a “tad off.”  We can write legal memos, draft documents, propound and answer discovery and research on Westlaw.

But we also learned much about each other.

We know that Bethany has a talent for posting things, that Vicki can make a Facebook page out of nothing, that Felice is the best baker in the world – which is seconded only by the casseroles that Sloan can make (thanks ladies for those three to five pounds we all gained), and that when you’re really tired there is nothing like a chat from Christian or a coffee with Sallie to help you laugh through the stress.  We know that Eric is one of the best actors in class – it really is a shame there aren’t any Oscars, that the quiet ones – Sylvia, Cindi, Kristi and Florra – are hidden treasures whenever a presentation was due, that if we needed a real-world example April was there to give it, that Susan showed us how much strength one person can have to overcome anything, which was good when Katy and Mike got the swine flu – and still made it through class.  Duane DuPont gave us a new view of the law.  Dana and Donna were always ready with a question while Judi, Michelle and Elizabeth could grant us perspective and much-needed grace when we needed it.

I know that the friendships we’ve formed over these weeks will last long after the class – perhaps when we all join a caffeine detoxification program next week.  I’m so glad I got to know each of you along the way – and that we made it, here in the 5th – or is it 6th? – location.

And now there is just one last step we have to take – and finally it’s stress-free one! Congratulations to everyone, and let’s get this started.

Valedictorian Judi Foster’s speech: – Fall 2009

After taking the fourth test, I was feeling really positive because I thought I had done well. Maybe even made an A, but when I got my test back it looked like it was bleeding it had so many red marks on it. That particular test had a lot of short answer questions, so I had written everything I could remember in response to the questions. I looked at my notes and the Power Points, and it appeared to me that, although my answers were not exactly the way it was written, they were really close. So, with much trepidation I approached Jac, and trying to be diplomatic I said, “I’m not questioning that it is incorrect, but why is this answer wrong?” And Jac, with that look on her face that is so intimidating, said, “Because it is not right.”

That was when I realized this crazy woman expects us to memorize every word of this stuff, verbatim! If they haven’t shown you before, have your family member show you just how much information we covered in a weekend. I wasn’t sure if I had enough brain cells 25 years ago when I graduated from college to do that, and I was sure I didn’t have enough now.

We soon learned, however, that there was method to Jac’s madness. We learned the importance of doing it Jac’s way, even if the only reason was that was the way she wanted it. It became apparent that  what she was trying to do, was prepare us for jobs as paralegals. She demanded perfection because perfection would be required of us. She didn’t suffer fools lightly because the attorneys we will one day work for won’t either. She drilled into us that there are no excuses in the law, there are consequences, and while in the classroom the consequence is a bad grade, that is nothing compared to the possible consequences to a client if you make a mistake.

Jac, you’ll be proud to know – we got it, and we appreciate you for it. You are an incredibly hardworking, dedicated professional. Your love of the law and your passion for the causes you believe in are an inspiration to us all. It has been an honor to be your student.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our families for their love and support. We could not have made it without your patience and understanding. Thank you.

Completing this class, has been time consuming, demanding, challenging and rewarding. At one time or another we all questioned whether we could do it all, but I, as did everyone graduating here today, persevered. Some of us did so in spite of personal tragedies, pressure at work and multiple curve balls that life tends to throw at the most inopportune times.

I have developed a tremendous respect for all of my classmates. They have been open and kind, accepting and tolerant, and generous to a fault. I am blessed to have you as my friends.

And finally, in addition to the skills we have learned in preparation of being paralegals, we will never forget how to spell definitely, and hopefully, we will never feel something that we actually think.


Speech by Salutatorian Wendy Sharetts – Spring 2008

Welcome to the Graduation of the Comeback Kids. We have an amazing story to share with you this afternoon.  Our story begins with our BJ times – Before Jac. You knew us then as your wives, sisters, daughters, sons – family members. We were normal then and we did all the things normal family members do. We did laundry and we went to the grocery store. And then April 6, 2008 arrived and our DJ – or During Jac – time started.

We came to class that first day for 14 different reasons. But by the end of those eight hours we became united by a single thought – survive to succeed. To do that we became like a sponge and tried to absorb everything we heard and saw. We quickly discovered learning from Jac was a lot like drinking from a fire hydrant.  Open your brain and just keep swallowing! Our new best friend’s name became O’Connors and we definitely had no time for anything frivolous in our lives. Exercise became lugging around twenty pounds of paralegal books. And, believe me, we needed the exercise since every weekend there was a buffet in our classroom that rivaled Luby’s.

As the DJ weeks unfolded, we learned there really was a method to Jac’s teaching style.  She forced us to stretch and grow, reach and think. We learned an amazing amount about the law, but we also learned about ourselves. Along the way we laughed and cried, stumbled and struggled. This class was paralegal boot camp and we were the rookie recruits.

Slowly the gifts we each brought to the class began to emerge.

Joanna – In Joanna we found the gift of a helpful heart. We always knew we could count on her to help with an answer and we would always get it with a smile.

Michelle – Michelle was our encourager, comedian, and social director.  Michelle truly is one of the funniest people I have ever met.

Wilma – Wilma was our dignified professional. A Bank Vice President by day, she became a serious paralegal student by night.

Liz – Liz showed us serious determination and sheer joy. The day she saw her name on the board and knew she would not have to take the final, we saw sheer joy.

Suhan, Brittney, Chandra, and Nancy – All showed quiet determination. Through computer crashes, illness, and absences, these ladies did what it took to succeed.

Sarah – Sarah was our academic leader. She made everything look so easy. We all wondered what it would be like to be so gifted.

Deborah – Deborah knew more about government than anyone in Washington. She also found her voice along the way and realized she could do anything.

Wendy –Wendy had the gift of inquisitiveness. She was always asking questions and eager to learn.

Rich – Rich was our resident optimist and fount of information. Rich knew something about everything and his coffee cup will always be half full.

Gidget – Gidget actually named us  “The Comeback Kids.”  I also remember something Gidget said the first day. “Failure in this class is not an option.”   I thought of those words many times along the way.

And now we come to Jac. I know this is hard to believe but I am at a loss to find the words to say thank you from all of us. I must admit, however, that during those long weeks of homework, finding words of thanks were not the ones foremost in our minds.  But they are now. In the end, we accepted your challenges, stood together, got up when we fell down, and realized that rare words of praise from you carried a great deal of weight. You are a brilliant lawyer and an amazing woman. You poured yourself into this class and inspired us to do the same.

Now the AJ – After Jac- times have come and we will remember what you said.

“You are the first class in which no one dropped out along the way and everyone passed! I couldn’t be prouder of you. With great admiration, Jac.”

As for me, it has been a privilege to stand in this group. I will take the gift that each one of you has offered. I say to you, as I said to Jac, “ You have written in this chapter of my life, challenged me to excel, and taught me to believe I could succeed.” So from Miss Bippity Boo’s heart to yours, my wish for you is, “May all your dreams come true!”

Congratulations Princesses and Prince Paralegals! WE DID IT!


Speech by Bonnie Battinelli – Winter 2008

Family, Friends, Our Dazzling Teacher, and Classmates,

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Graduation ceremony of the Paralegal Class of March 2008, and thank you for coming.

This is such a special moment for my classmates and me.  We have burnt the mid night oil, studying almost non stop, quizzing each other for test, exchanging current events for our bonus questions, sharing our biggest fears about the class and supporting each other when it was needed.

I am sure my classmates will agree when I tell you, if you want to see what you are made of, take this 10-week brain busting boot camp paralegal certification course, and if you survive to the end, you will be surprised to see what you are made of.

We will each tell you the day we walked into this class, nothing could have prepared us for what we were in for.   We would be challenged beyond human comprehension.  Let me ask you a question;   Do you know the name of the President of Iraq?  Do you?  Well good for you.  I have another one for you:  Spell definitely?  Think about it?  Are you sure?  Today you will each witness our class receiving their Paralegal Certification.  Just one  little problem though, we can tell you what we have learned, we just can’t tell you how to apply what we have learned to a question you may want to ask us?  Funny, huh?  All that money and we can’t give you our opinion.  In fact, if we do, we get an all paid vacation… with 3 delicious meals a day, our own private bathroom, matching clothing, shoes and all for the low price of 10 – 20 years away from our friends and families.

Moreover, speaking of family, we would have no success if we had not had your support.  Our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, partners, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, and even grandchildren… your unselfishness has allowed this class to be here before you today.

Our career paths are going to take us in different directions.  Some of us already have jobs in the legal profession, others have jobs in related fields, and some are getting ready for their internship with one of the quality attorneys that have visited with our class in the past.  This class has prepared each one of us for the transition to a rewarding career.  On a personal note, I once had the pleasure of working for a law firm in another state.  That was one of the most satisfying positions I ever had in my work history career.  I look forward to that satisfaction again.

I would like to thank each and every one of my classmates for making this a wonderful experience that I personally will never forget.  I have made some wonderful friends.  Most of all, I want to take this time to thank our teacher, Jackie Brennan.  It is amazing how she put the color in words and brought them to life.  You have to speak to be heard, but you have to listen to know how.  We listened.  Thank you, Jac.  And thank all of you again for coming today.

Valedictorian Michael Herman’s Speech – Fall 2008

To the 13th graduating class of the U of H paralegal certificate program, family and friends –  it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Our wise teacher told us, this afternoon we celebrate a big accomplishment and reflect on the sometimes grueling, sometimes interesting and sometimes even fun journey we took through our class together.  It was nine intense weeks and most of you know or have heard the stories and experiences.  We were in class for a very short amount of time.  In that roughly 144 hours, Jac instilled in us the skills, knowledge, resources, and thought-processes we need to become smart, essential, indispensable paralegals.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported us through this experience, our spouses, significant others, parents, children, friends, colleagues, bosses, and of course, our teacher, Jac.

During that nine week period, there were a multitude of major events that happened concurrently with our class.

We had just survived Hurricane Ike and some of our classmates still didn’t have electricity on Day 1 of class.  We witnessed the U.S. Presidential debates, and the Vice Presidential debate, we met Joe the Plumber, we celebrated a very important American holiday, 2 Jewish holidays, a Christian holiday, and Halloween.  Even the ground shook in north Texas with earthquakes around the Dallas area. We watched the economic landscape dramatically and permanently change with mega mergers and acquisitions.  We watched as the $700 billion dollar financial rescue plan was voted down and then finally passed.  We watched our neighbors to the north elect a prime minister.  Even in our personal lives, we celebrated with family and friends at weddings, and baby showers and two of us felt the passing of loved ones.

In Houston, we saw a change in the political winds within our local government.  A momentous change in our judges, from a republican to a democrat majority. We saw the Latin Grammies take place right here in the Bayou City at the Toyota Center. Towards the end of our class, our country elected our 44th president. And no doubt, we all knew who the Texans were playing every Sunday.

We’ve spent hours studying for tests, researching and doing homework and preparing for midweeks at Jac’s house.  The majority of our learning was in the classroom; but we were also fortunate to able to benefit from ‘out of class’ experiences.  Some of us observed a grievance hearing downtown, although someone thought it was a mediation, we voted, we watched and learned from The Practice and Michaels Moore’s movie, “Sicko.”  We also attended weekly webcast and watched topics on Americans with Disabilities and other disability rights laws.  A group of us attended the monthly Houston Metropolitan Paralegal Association luncheons.

Each of us has benefited from this program.  For those who are already in the legal field, this class further increased their knowledge base.  And for us from other fields, this program was an eye-awakening experience with all of its acronyms and nuances. Personally, I thought I was learning another foreign language, and you know what, I actually did!

Jac has broadened our awareness of our surroundings, both domestically and internationally.  We brushed-up on our American History, memorized the U.S. Supreme Justices, and the presidents and prime ministers of several countries.  Each of us gave 3 oral reports in front of our class. There were approximately 48 topics that we learned from each other. These topics ranged from specific law firms to global conflicts to companies who facilitate retrieval of documentation.

We covered a multitude of topics in class, wills and estates, criminal and juvenile law, business organizations, corporate law, family law, consumer law, torts, real estate law, hearsay, motions and objections, and many more.  We had numerous, invaluable guest speakers including paralegals who graduated from this program, attorneys – some of whom were Jac’s classmates, a UH College of Law professor, and a judge.  We interviewed a client for a mock will, prepared and presented a mock arbitration, and this morning we concluded our biggest class project, our mock trial.

Personally, I am extremely grateful to Jac.  The work was challenging and Jac was always available for questions.  Although I may not have gotten the answers I thought I wanted; she made me more self-reliant and more inquisitive of myself and my work.

I don’t know exactly how Jac manages to work fulltime, to maintain a large family, to manage several well-designed websites, including one for the paralegal program, to volunteer within the community and to establish and run a non-profit organization called “A Simple Thread.”  A Simple Thread was created to help homeless individuals in a unique way.  The volunteers prepare small kits, called simple threads, which are sort of like care packages.  There are 12 different types of kits.  For example, there’s a “Say Cheese smile kit.”  It contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouth wash, lip balm and breath mints.  A group of inexpensive products that we take for granted that mean a great deal to someone living on the streets. In honor of Jac, we’ve put together some kits to donate to A Simple Thread.  They are on the back table.

In closing, the 16 of us have successfully completed the 13thedition of the paralegal program.  It is now our ball to run with and make Jac proud.