Livingstone kicks off commencement season
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Nakia Gordon is celebrating two graduations — her own and her daughter CeAiree’s.
Gordon, a single mother, walked across the stage on Saturday at Livingstone College to receive her diploma for a degree in computer information systems, all the while knowing the obstacles she faced to get to that point.
“I am a single mother and I work full-time and attended school, but my Livingstone family saw me through it,” she said.
Her daughter graduated from preschool and will move on to kindergarten this year.
Gordon, 28, of Woodleaf, said she believes her daughter understands the sacrifices and advancements she’s making by receiving a degree.
“I had to work extra hard. It wasn’t party time,” she said.
She said faculty members and staff gave her not just academic support, but emotional support as well.
“When your parents send you away, there’s mom and dad here,” Gordon said.
Gordon said she was at Livingstone to receive a degree, and she said she enjoyed her college experience.
Her advice for other students who may face similar hardships was, “Don’t stop.”
“Obstacles will come up, but the main point is to achieve your goals. Do it for yourself,” Gordon said.
She said when people let things stop them, they show the world they can be defeated.
Gordon hopes to use her degree to design educational computer programs for children.
Gordon believes sometimes the college is looked down upon, but she said people shouldn’t judge an institution they’ve never been apart of.
“Instead of being on the outside looking in, come inside and look outside to see what we see,” she said.
She thinks her daughter is more excited for her own graduation, Gordon said with a laugh.
Anthony Smith, of Fayetteville, said it’s a blessing to be graduating with a degree also in computer information systems.
Smith will return to campus for an internship and hopes to land a job at a bank, he said.
He knows with the way the market is now, it may be difficult at first to find a job, but is confident there is one with his name on it.
James Lenoir, a golden graduate of Livingstone from the class of 1961, was doubly proud on Saturday. As Lenoir walked onto the football field, his granddaughter, Danelle Tidwell, did the same.
Tidwell is graduating summa cum laude, Lenoir said.
Lenoir, 72, is a retired math teacher who taught in Charlotte. He’s currently studying at Hood Theological Seminary to pursue a master of divinity degree.
Angelique Young is graduating with a degree in social work and wants to stay in Salisbury to use her degree in the community in which she lives.
“I want to keep it in the community and to make Rowan a better place,” she said.
Her twin sons, Anthony and Antonio, 5, along with daughter Kayleigh, two months were there to cheer her on along with other members of her family.
Other than her father, she is the first person within his family to graduate with a college degree.
Young’s father also attend Livingstone, it was one of the reason’s she chose the college and because she wanted to experience the rich history of a historically black college.
Sharon McDuffie-Burruss traveled from Connecticut to support daughter, Rushell McDuffie, who will got a degree in sociology.
McDuffie-Burruss said she’s proud of her daughter, who had some obstacles of her own to overcome.
“She’s faced a lot of adversity,” she said.
While away at school, the family lost their possessions in an apartment fire.
“I kept telling her, ‘Don’t worry about home, just do what you came to do,’ ” McDuffie-Burruss said.
During the ceremony, graduate Le’Sondra Brown, sang a moving rendition of “Order My Steps” that had many graduates on their feet and tears in their eyes.
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Commencement speaker, Joe Scantlebury, a senior program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s U.S. Program Advocacy division, charged the graduates to seek and find employment, return to the community to lead, further their degree and most importantly, give some back to their alma mater once they begin to make money.
“You are about to receive a license to make a difference in the world,” he said.
Scantlebury said the world they would step out into is “filled with drama.”
“It won’t be easy to find a job, but it would be harder if you didn’t have the preparation and training,” he said.
Scantlebury read the bible scripture Isaiah 6:8 that says: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
“When the question is asked, whom shall we send? I hope the answer is you,” Scantlebury said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.