Sen. Michael Bennet, Allyson Felix to headline USC Rossier commencement
Both to speak at master’s ceremony along with MAT student Lena Aloumari
By Ross Brenneman
Michael Bennet, a U.S. senator from Colorado, will deliver the keynote speech at this year’s master’s degree ceremony, and Allyson Felix ’08, one of the most decorated Olympians in history, will give an address that draws from her experiences.
The ceremony takes place on Friday, May 12.
A voice on education
Bennet, a Democrat, joined the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in 2009 after the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy created a vacancy. He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee as well as the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
Bennet came to Washington after serving as superintendent of the 73,000-student Denver Public Schools, where he spearheaded an aggressive reform agenda.
As a senator, he was a vocal critic of the recent nomination of Betsy DeVos to be U.S. Secretary of Education. Speaking on the Senate floor in the days leading up to the vote that ultimately confirmed DeVos, Bennet assailed the nominee’s performance at her Senate hearing.
“A commitment to choice without a commitment to quality serves ideology rather than improvement,” Bennet said. “And a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all.”
A world-renowned athlete
Felix received her bachelor of science in elementary education from USC Rossier, and has been an active proponent of youth and education programs while also pursuing Olympic glory.
Felix was appointed a member of President Barack Obama’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 2010, an effort to help address childhood obesity. In 2011, she joined Right to Play, a nonprofit organization that promotes the development of education, health and leadership in disadvantaged areas and countries through sports. She has also served as an envoy for the U.S. State Department, traveling to Brazil in 2014 to conduct youth clinics for students from marginalized communities.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Felix became the most decorated U.S. female track athlete of all time after winning a silver medal in the women’s 400-meter. She has won nine Olympic medals in total (including six gold), as well as 13 medals from the World Championships in Athletics (nine gold).
Felix has been a longtime volunteer and speaker at schools in Los Angeles and around the world. This February, the Los Angeles Sports Council named her the 2017 Sportswoman of the Year. She has also been named the recipient of this year’s USC Young Alumni Merit Award.
A daughter of immigrants
MAT student Lena Aloumari will deliver this year’s student address. Like many at USC Rossier, Aloumari is the daughter of immigrants; her mother is from Egypt, and her father from Syria.
Aloumari began pursuing her master’s online in January 2016, bringing experience as an English teacher for New Generation International Schools, in Cairo, and as a graduate teaching assistant for the American University in Cairo.
“I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to speak during this year’s commencement ceremony,” Aloumari said. “Despite this being my first time in Los Angeles, I’m eager to meet and exchange stories with my fellow Trojans during this momentous occasion.”
Aloumari graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor of science in communications and journalism. She has spent the past year as a student teacher for Boyette Springs Elementary in Riverview, Fla.
The master’s ceremony is Friday, May 12, at 3:30 p.m. on the McCarthy Quad. The main USC commencement ceremony is that morning, featuring actor and comedian Will Ferrell. The hooding ceremony for USC Rossier’s doctoral students will take place on Thursday, May 11, at 3 p.m.