As Claflin University celebrated its 146th Commencement Convocation Saturday, May 7, 19 student-athletes were among the 422 graduates who received their Bachelor's and Master's Degree in various disciplines. The commencement activities got underway on Monday, May 2 and culminated with the Commencement Convocation on Saturday.
Reality began to set in for the 19 senior student-athletes when they attended the 2016 Baccalaureate Service, on Friday evening, May 6, where the speaker was the Reverend B. Kevin Smalls ’93, Pastor at Queen’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Beltsville, Md.
Saturday morning's Commencement Convocation was the final dose of reality, as it was the last time each of them would gather together as student-athletes. Facing the fact that the season-long road trips, study hall, meals in the cafe, classes in JTK, or just hanging around the Student Center, will now and forevermore be etched in their memory banks as those precious times they spent on the campus of Claflin University.
Speaker Mrs. Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice president, United States Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement with The Nielsen Company encouraged graduates to face their fears.
"Don't be afraid of fear," said Pearson-McNeil. "Fear being normal, fear not being you. Use fear as a motivator and embrace it as a fuel that will propel you to the next phase of your life. My biggest fear was being average. My grandmother raised 10 children and she was very strong in raising a family. But she believed she lived an average life -- a life she did not want me to live. She told me to make sure I saw the world."
Pearson-McNeil added, "Don't let your family or anyone define you or place you in a box. Don't be what others want you to be. Don't be pressured to live out their dreams for you. You decide who you want to be."
In addition to the 19 student-athletes, assistant women’s basketball coach Nanyamka Moore received her MBA during the commencement exercises.