Almost 4,000 students celebrated graduating from Sacramento State at this weekend's Winter Commencement ceremony, which featured an unlikely speaker.
Michael Molino received a masters in speech pathology. Molino, who served in the Navy for 24 years, says he always had an interest in speech pathology because he received speech therapy for a stutter.
"I want to give back, and I want to let other individuals know that you can still do it," Molino said in an interview with CapRadio prior to Saturday's commencement.
One of the deans asked Molino to give a graduation speech and he agreed. "I always make it a point to talk about fluency somehow," he said, adding that the speech is a good way to raise awareness. "It's going to reach a lot of people."
But he says it's been a long road from where he was back in high school, when he was afraid to speak in class. "It was like, 'ohhh, I have to give an oral presentation today? I'm going to skip school because I'm not going to do that,'" Molino said. "And here I am, 'X' amount of years later giving a speech in front of thousands of people."
During his time at Sac State, Molino brought in some people from the Sacramento Chapter of the National Stuttering Association -which he leads - to give his classmates a deeper understanding of stuttering, which affects about one percent of the population.
"It is on a spectrum," he said. "Right now I'm kind of mild, but there's days that it's more severe." For some individuals, they're always on the severe side of the spectrum, he said. "For them, it is very difficult and it seems like, 'oh this is never going to end.'"
In his speech, he told his fellow grads that no matter their journey to this point, they did it.
"Whether it was the military, whether it was raising a family first, or whether it was straight through a four-year college, no one gave up here," Molino told the crowd at the Golden 1 Center gathered for the Health and Human Services graduation ceremony. "To that I say: congratulations to all of us."
Molino is now finishing up an internship with the Veterans Administration and hopes to continue to work for veterans and people with fluency challenges. He also hosts online video chats on Stutter Social with people from all over the world.
The ceremony was Sac State's final Winter Commencement. Starting next school year there will only be a spring ceremony.