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The student pictured above is one of 300 who recently received their degrees from Fort Valley State University.
May 14, 2013 – Fort Valley State University graduations are always times filled with joy, gratefulness and bittersweet goodbyes. They also mark the final and most rewarding chapter for Wildcat students who are finally receiving their degrees after a long journey. On May 4, 300 Wildcats bid farewell to life in The Valley, after they marched across the stage during the 72nd Spring Commencement Ceremony in the Health and Physical Education Complex. Despite drizzling rain, parents, friends and supporters flooded the HPE Complex to celebrate loved ones during the 9:30 a.m. event.
At the sound of Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” FVSU fauclty, staff and Class of 1963 and 1973 members, dressed in formal regalia, entered the auditorium to take their seats. Minutes later, the audience erupted into thunderous excitement as the graduating class appeared, waving and smiling to family and friends.
Ki’Undra Jackson marched with the Class of 2013, as the university’s valedictorian. Jackson, who earned a perfect 4.0 GPA, received her bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering technology. Jackson, who is the second of six children, was raised by her grandparents. “I was one of the first people in my family to attend college, so I had a lot on my shoulders,” said the 22-year-old student. “My hometown, Soperton, Ga., only has one school. Coming from a small town, I knew that I had to maintain a high GPA, not just for me, but for every student coming from a small town.” As a high school student, Jackson decided that she wanted to attend FVSU. “I heard great things about Fort Valley State,” said Jackson. “I wanted to attend an historically black college and university, and FVSU seemed like the natural choice.” During her enrollment, the Jackson served as FVSU’s Student Government Association senator. Later, she decided to join a public service organization, and became an Eta Chapter member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Jackson’s leadership skills earned her elected offices as the president of two organizations: the EET club, and the FVSU Pan-Hellenic Council. She also gave back to help fellow students as tutor for FVSU’s Academic Success Center. Jackson explained her motivation to become successful. “A lot of people thought that I just studied all day, but I just had a lot of drive and passion, and I worked hard,” said the young leader. Recently, Jackson received acceptance letters from two Midwest institutions: Indiana State and Purdue. “I’m still torn between graduate school and the workforce, and trying to decide what’s the best decision for me,” said Jackson.
Yesmine Releford, a 22-year-old Perry native, earned a degree in criminal justice.Releford, who is the oldest of three sisters, overcame many challenges during her stint at FVSU to maintain a 3.96 GPA. “Where I grew up, it wasn’t an ideal place,” saidReleford, who explained that her mother was the motivation and inspiration for everything she has done in life. “My mother, Pamela Childs, said that if I did not want to stay poor, I had to get a good education, no matter what. She told me to keep God first, and everything else [would] fall into place.” Releford says that her aunt, KeyoshaReleford, who passed away from leukemia in 1996, also inspired her. “She was more like my sister, because we almost the same age,” says Releford, tearful. “We were so close.” As a Perry High School student, Releford’s guidance counselor and Fort Valley State alumna Hazel Jackson, told her about FVSU. Releford applied and was accepted. AtFVSU, Releford excelled academically and in several campus organizations. She joined the criminal justice club, and was elected its 2012-2013 vice president. The student was also named a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta and Pi Gamma Mu honor societies. The graduate also worked two jobs while in school. She was also a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and the university’s 4-H Kiddie Field Day. Releford acknowledged one professor as a mentor. “Professor Preston Martin (assistant professor of criminal justice), saw potential in me that I didn’t,” she said, who explained that it’s necessary to give your all in order to succeed. “Nothing worth having comes easy. You have to work hard and it’s well worth the fight. It was a great journey on campus, and I gained valuable experience.” Inside the HPE Complex, her stepfather, Howard Childs, along with her mother, Pamela, and sisters Justice and Liberty, celebrated her latest achievement. Her biological father, Wilbert Ingram, could not make the ceremony due to a recent deployment to Germany. But, before graduation, Ingram took the scholar out for a special dinner. “I’m glad that I can make my family proud of me, and happy,” saidReleford. “I’m glad that I have such a good support system from them.” After Relefordand other graduates took their seats, Dr. Larry Eugene Rivers, who was officiating his last graduation ceremony as FVSU’s eighth president, approached the podium.
“It might be pouring down rain outside, but that’s okay,” said Dr. Rivers. “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad. To our wet friends, welcome to the72nd commencement exercises.” FVSU’s graduating senior Bryant Collier delivered the invocation. Later, the FVSU Baptist Student Union sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Georgia State Representative Calvin Smyre, president of the Synovus Foundation and Chairman of the FVSU Foundation, Inc. addressed the students. The 1970 alumnus told graduating Wildcats that nothing great had been achieved, except by those who dared to believe in their dreams and follow them. The representative charged students to keep their heads up, and to remain superior to any challenges and circumstances that may come their way. “Now is your time to fight and pursue your passion,” said the politician. During his speech, Smyre gave graduates post-college advice. He urged students to increase their confidence and to maintain a great attitude towards others, because it would help them to go far in life. Smyre told the story of an FVSU professor who changed the direction of his life, by telling him always reach for excellence. Later, Smyrereminded graduating seniors to be bold, strong, and make responsible choices in life. “Don’t ask what the world wants, ask what you can give,” said the business leader. “Because what the world needs is for you to come alive.” After Smyre’s discourse, Rivers presented Trailblazer Awards to five individuals who have made great contributions toFVSU.
Donavon Coley, FVSU outreach and marketing director, College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology Emory “Big O” Marcus, FVSU donor Jocelyn Powell, FVSUdirector of tutorial services Clara Tarver, retired administrative assistant, College of Education Dr. Fred van Hartesveldt, FVSU chair, Department of History, Geography, Political Science and Criminal Justice Soon, graduates processioned to the stage for their degrees from their respective university dean: Dr. Anna Holloway, College of Graduate Studies and Extended Education; Dr. Govind Kannan, College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology; Dr. Victor M. D. Brown, College of Arts and Sciences; or Edward Hill, College of Education. During the ceremony, second lieutenants Michael Bush and Andrew Harvey were commissioned by Lt. Col. and professor of FVSU’smilitary science department, Joel Davis Jr.
Additional pictorial highlights can be found in FVSU’s photo gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fvsu1895.