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Genuine Gold

“No One Is Ever Truly Alone,” Says June 2022 Student Commencement Speaker

Vaughn standing outside wearing graduation gown.

Navigating his way through life’s challenges and uncertainties, senior Vaughn Curioso said he didn’t do it alone. The graphic design major from Santa Maria in the Philippines said he received help spiritually from Heavenly Father, support from his family, and a life-changing conversation with a refugee from the Congo he met on his mission in Utah.

“I made it, but that is not from me alone. I can’t credit that achievement just from my own effort. It must have come from somewhere else, and so that’s my core message,” said Curioso.

People may feel alone at times in their lives, but they are never truly alone, said Curioso, the student speaker for the Spring 2022 Commencement. As part of his commencement speech, he said he will talk about how even though people may feel like they do not have the support, access, or opportunities they need, spiritually they can find the help and direction they are looking for because God is always watching over them.

You Are Never Alone

Growing up in a small town where his family did not have much and was trying to get by, Curioso explained his father worked in Saudi Arabia to provide for his family. But his dad passed away from illness when Curioso was 16.

However, after his dad died, Curioso said he often felt he was still around him. He said when he is in the temple, he feels both his Heavenly Father and earthly father present. He said this also applies to those who have lost loved ones, who are trying to do well in life and trying to make them proud.

While he was staying in the Philippines with his mother, he shared his siblings were in faraway places studying, working, and living abroad in Singapore, Qatar, and Ohio.

"[My family] has this joke that my other sister who is not married yet needs to marry someone from another continent because we're basically connecting all nations," said Curioso.

While having family in different places can be exciting, he said, they “often felt alone."

Being unemployed and having no money and connections can make people feel like their situations are impossible or unfair. He said at one point, he started to lose hope and thought he could overcome it. But family and faith made all the difference for him, he said.

Curioso shared his background includes a family of professional artists, architects and a product designer. Even as a young child, he said he experimented with different kinds of art.

But being an artist in the Philippines is not a popular choice, said Curioso. "You would be laughed at back home [because] it is not profitable, and people would just say it's a passion."

Vaughn standing outside wearing graduation gown.

Follow Your Heart

Curioso said he met a man while serving on his mission in Salt Lake City, Utah, that inspired him to choose his career as a graphic artist.

While on his mission, he was introduced by one of his ward mission leaders to a man who is a political refugee from the Congo in Africa. The refugee offered to give Curioso and his companion a ride, and while driving, he said this man asked what his plan was after his mission. When Curioso responded he was still figuring it out, the refugee told him to, "follow your heart."

That thought stuck with him for a long time, Curioso said, and he came to realize that man came all the way from the Congo to Salt Lake City to make an impact on his life. “I am sure that's God trying to talk through [him],” he said, “and ever since, that's how I choose my career."

He said working as a graphic artist has given him “first-hand experience with other cultures."

Before coming to BYUH, he shared he studied architecture for two years but came to realize his brain hates math.

At BYUH, he majored in graphic design because of his interest in art and culture including aesthetics, design, and studying symbols, but he said he also minored in anthropology, social work, and psychology.

"I really wanted to do product design before, but I learned that it's kind of the same story with architecture with all the math and stuff," said Curioso.

Living in an increasingly loud society filled with more and more competing voices, Curioso said people lose touch with symbols and focus on the stuff around them, leading them to lose sight of the meaning of their existence.

For example, he said today religion is becoming less important and less popular. He explained the intersection of culture and art produces symbols. The symbols are the best tools for him to communicate when it is produced by culture, meaning people's way of living and when their purpose here on Earth and art merge.

One of Curioso’s friends at BYUH, Haruya Muri, said Curioso “is a really aesthetic person. He has a philosophy about designing things, and he has really deep thoughts." Muri is a senior majoring in graphic design from Okinawa, Japan, and has known Curioso for four years. They started school here together and they applied at the same for the graphic design major.

Prioritizing Family

"My goal in life is to just have a simple, happy family. I wouldn't ask for anything more," said Curioso. He explained pursuing his family's happiness is important to him. "You can achieve things in life, and you can't do it alone. You will have to have that support," he said.

He shared while working at BYUH and being exposed to a culture that is "work, work, work, work," and seeing people working 60 hours or more, helped him ponder what is healthy for families. "Maybe it is good to provide what you need, but in the long run, family is what is most important."

"You know, a little more money is good. But I would rather have a happy family than anything else because family is what got me through." He said he wouldn't be where he is today if his family hadn’t shouldered some of the weight, and pushed, trusted, and never doubted his abilities.

Curioso is married to a BYUH alumna Sashalei Curioso from Samoa who majored in Pacific Island Studies and works at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

She said the first time she met her husband was at the PCC Gateway restaurant while they were both working as leads or supervisors. She said Curioso did well academically in primary and high school, and so she was not surprised when he was asked to give a speech at the Spring 2022 Commencement ceremony.