By Janice K. Neal-Vincent,
We learn in Ecclesiastes (NIV) that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Such is the case of Jackson State University’s 2021 graduates. Trailblazers that they are, they are embarking on new beginnings. New moments arose for them in the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center at 9 a.m. Friday, May 7.
“This class deserves all of our thanks, all of our love…You’ve done incredible things these past few years. You have heeded the call and have done all the work that brought you to this day,” persisted Thomas Hudson, (J.D.) president.
Jackson Public School Superintendent, Errick L. Greene, Ed.D., spoke candidly when he told the graduates: “Live your life while you’re alive” as he addressed them with the topic – The Dash. Reflecting on the meaning of the word “dash,” the speaker emphasized that those commencing into life would need to maintain focus while seizing moments as they rose.
Greene posed the question, “What are you dashing toward, and what will your dash represent?” He explained that the graduates’ lives might be different tomorrow as opposed to today. “Slow your pace and respect your name. You have to live your life with purpose [so] push yourself to walk in that purpose every day.” He continued that if this was done, then, there would be meaning in the dash.
Earlexia Norword, M.D., and President of the JSU National Alumni Association, stood proudly before those at the ceremony and inspired graduates to represent the university well. She noted prior to conducting the alumni pledge that 99% of graduates do not receive a Ph.D. Despite this waning statistic, the stakes are high for success.
Inspired in the moment, Shirley Collins earned her Master of Arts degree in sociology and noted that “after catching my breath, I plan to pursue a doctorate. I’m an adjunct professor in criminology at Jackson State. So what I’m doing is not about me. I pursued my masters to help make a change at Jackson State and to encourage students to be the best.”
Collins commented that COVID-19 produced many unforeseen stressors. Her forte is to encourage them to persevere in their goals. “I encounter so many students who come into my office in tears…I try to give them encouraging words. One of my students came to me at Commencement and said she couldn’t graduate without me. If you get your degree from JSU, you can make a lot of things happen and make a difference. But you have to want it,” she contended.
Sharing these graduates’ happiness were 1971 JSU graduates who returned to celebrate 50 years since they marched on the campus. These golden diploma graduates strutted determinedly in their gold caps and gowns. Not only did they strut, but they left JSU with a $105,000 hefty donation for a scholarship dollar match for students.
Of the celebration, Senator Hillman Frazier, Golden Class member, uttered: “It was a happy occasion witnessing my classmates and seeing them in their various professions. I’m grateful to be here.
The senator stressed that when students attend JSU, they are preparing for the future. “Professors will prepare [them] for the next level or chapter in [their] lives.”
Regarding that preparation, Amanda Cavett who earned a Specialist in Psychometrist, stated: “My journey at JSU has been nothing but the best. This is my fourth degree from JSU. I could not have chosen another university because JSU I love. We are a family; we are seen as a person and not a number…and that speaks volumes.”
Cavett mentioned COVID-19. “That was a challenge. We had to network, and I was grateful that we made it. If you’re not able to adapt, then you can’t go forward.”
Collins summed it up when she charged: “Don’t let anything stop you from what you want to be. Keep going [and] never judge what you’re trying to do by someone else.”