By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,
The Durant Missionary Baptist Church (DMBC) of Durant, Miss. recently held its 34th-year County Wide Baccalaureate Services to encourage and pray for the graduates of Holmes County Central High School Class of 2022
“This class has had a challenging last two years,” said pastor and speaker Dr. Nathaniel Christian, referencing their matriculation through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In retrospect, COVID-19 hit while this class and others were on Spring Break in mid-March 2020. School closures took place statewide. Gov. Tate Reeves issued a “Shelter in Place” Executive Order, effective April 3. He later replaced it with a “Safer at Home” on May 22, 2020, to which Holmes County was added as the eighth hotpot for COVID-19.
School administrators, students, and parents pivoted and tried to adapt to a virtual learning platform in a rural county where Internet connectivity was already an issue. School buses would still run, but to deliver district-prepared nutritional meals to the students at home. HCCSD is a 100% Free and Reduced Lunch district
More than a year later on Aug. 5, 2021, the Class of 2022 and other students witnessed the State take-over of its school district, approved and proclaimed by Governor Reeves after a recommendation on Aug. 3, 2021, from the State Board of Education.
Despite the challenges, Pastor Christian said, “The class is a blessing in itself. I think that we all should just stand and give God a hand. As the song says, ‘many didn’t make it but I’m so glad that I am one of the ones who did.”’ He urged: “Don’t abort your source of strength,” using Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
“Things are changing rapidly… You are on the cutting edge of change; you have to be focused; hold on to the source of your strength, and don’t hide your bibles.” he advised.
The church was filled with parents, educators, out-of-towners and other well-wishers in support of the graduates.
Native Mississippian Prophetess Gwendolyn P. Davis of Dayton, Ohio was in town to support her niece, Curaya Washington. “I was present for her pre-kindergarten graduation when her great grandparents were still here, now, wow, I am present at her high school graduation. That means a lot,” said Davis who said her niece has had a “grand senior year.”
Parent Antwan Clark commented, “My wife and I were overjoyed when we heard that Breanna was No. 4 in her class. We know that she is very smart, and it’s great to see that her hard work and dedication have paid off,” he said.
During the service, students received awards and scholarships in addition to ones many received during a prior Class Day event.
“My classmates, our potential is boundless,” said Lillian Lewis, class valedictorian, and a recipient of several scholarships and awards.
The salutatorian is Zanashia Hawkins. Ajah Webster is No. 3 in class.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Wilson was invited by the church to offer words of encouragement.
“Graduates, at this time, I will offer you a few words of wisdom, and my words will be captured under the theme: Don’t eat the marshmallow!” Wilson began. “First, I need you to turn to your classmate on your left and say, “Don’t eat the marshmallow.” Now turn to your classmate on your right and say, “I said, “Don’t eat the marshmallow. Now, what does all that mean?
“In the 1960s, a researcher conducted a study with 4-and-5-year-old children. He brought each into a room, and on a table in front of them, he placed a marshmallow. He told each, ‘You may have one marshmallow now or if you can wait 20 minutes while I run an errand, when I come back, you may have two marshmallows.’
“Some kids jumped up and ate the marshmallow as soon as the researcher left the room. Others wiggled, bounced and scooted in their chairs and tried to hold out, but eventually, within five minutes, they too gobbled down the marshmallow. And finally, a few of the children did wait and received a double reward. This popular study became known as The Marshmallow Experiment.
“The researcher tracked the children’s progress and later found that those who were willing to delay gratification and waited for the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, were more self-motivated, more disciplined and less easily frustrated than the students who ate the first one.
“Surprisingly, later in life the researcher tracked some of the children for more than 40 years, and over and over, the children who patiently waited for the second marshmallow succeeded in whatever capacity they were measuring.”
After sharing the Marshmallow Experiment, Wilson concluded: “If you want to be great, it’s not going to happen overnight. My admonishment to you in whatever you do in life, is to work hard at it, don‘t take the easy road. Remember, the bible says, “The race is not given to the swift, nor the battle to the strong but they who endure to the end. Congratulations, young people for a job well done.”
“The resilient 194-member Class of 2022 racked up more than $450K in scholarships,” said HCCHS Principal Antwayn Patrick.
He also recognized three members of the men’s 5-A Basketball Champion Jaguars who were among the graduates