Actress from ‘Steve Harvey Show’ tells Livingstone students to keep up their grades

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2013

An actress best known for her role as a high school secretary on “The Steve Harvey Show” encouraged Livingstone College students Monday night to study hard and make good grades during an Academic Achievement Dinner.
Terri J. Vaughn, who portrayed Lovita Alize’ Jenkins-Robinson on the sitcom that aired on the WB Network from 1996-2002, told students she was reared in San Francisco in a single-parent home in a neighborhood riddled with violent crime and drugs – but that didn’t stop her from achieving success.
“I’m always very honored and humbled when I’m asked to speak to young people, in part because you have so much power and so much you’re going to do with your life,” Vaughn, a married mother of two, told about 400 students assembled in Trent Gym. “How many of you know that you’re powerful? Really, you are, and that’s not just fluff because I speak the truth.”
The students were in the gym to be recognized for their GPAs and to be given color-coded ID cards – akin to credit cards – that will provide special privileges and benefits commensurate with the color of their ID card. For example, cards will award students game and move tickets, passes to cultural events, free pizza from area restaurants and other goodies. The cards are silver, gold, platinum and black, in ascending order or prestige. Students slated to receive black cards have 3.85 to 4.0 grade point averages.
Jenkins devised the “credit cards” as a means of rewarding academic excellence and inspiring improved academic success among Livingstone’s roughly 1,100 students.
He’s made no secret of the fact that Livingstone accepts some students who wouldn’t be admitted at other colleges or universities because of their academic performance or SAT scores. However, he’s quick to say he believes Livingstone students have the intellectual capability to succeed – if they fully invest in college.
So during the seven years he’s been president of Livingstone, Jenkins has brought in guest lecturers to encourage and motivate students. The color-coded ID cards represent another innovative way he’s trying to light an academic fire under them. He repeatedly tells students education is the surest vehicle for upward mobility in the world, and now he’s hoping the color-coded ID cards will make them want to work even harder to improve their grades.
“I’m very emotional, and I’m very passionate because I mean what I say and I care about you,” Vaughn said at the dinner. “I knew I wanted to be successful in life, so I carried a picture in my mind of what I wanted to look like.”
Vaughn, who also starred in Tyler Perry’s hit film, “Daddy’s Little Girls,” said she envisioned herself in high heels, a snazzy suit and carrying a briefcase into a downtown office.
“I always thought in order for me to get to that picture of myself I’d better get good grades because to be successful I’d have to go to college,” she said. “I wasn’t a straight-A student, but I had a GPA above 3.0 and did get accepted into a college. That was like the heavens opening up and I said, ‘Oh, my God, I’m one step closer to my picture.’ ”
Vaughn wanted a car but her mother couldn’t afford to buy her one. So the summer before her freshman year she skipped the parties, movies and other fun things to work at Ticketron (now Ticketmaster) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a local post office from 7 p.m. until the wee hours to buy a white Dodge Colt.
Vaughn said she’d never considered a career in the entertainment industry; however, after entering a Miss California pageant at the advice of a friend she was asked to audition for a part in a play.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“It all started because I wanted to get good grades because I wanted to be successful,” Vaughn said through tears. “Sometimes we don’t know what we’re going to end up doing. The reason for being in college is to work to get that degree so you can be successful at whatever. Life is not easy. It’s not easy when you have a degree and when you know what you want, but it’s certainly much harder when you’re not equipped to go out into the world with the tools to be successful, to speak successfully.”
Vaughn closed her speech by telling the students they, too, can achieve success. “You’ve just got to go get it.”
Junior Dairon McGraw, a music education major, was moved by Vaughn’s words. “Her comments were very great and very inspirational,” he said. “Her background is similar to that of a lot of students.”
In lieu of the color-coded ID cards, which are being ordered, students were given certificates on Monday. Before they were distributed, Nicholas Perkins, president of Perkins Management Services Company, encouraged them to know their history and challenged them to do their best.
He also told students there’s nothing wrong with dreaming.
“You have to have the courage to dream, but it takes fortitude to make your dreams happen,” said Perkins, whose company sponsored the dinner. “The black community is in dire straits, and it’s going to take creative minds of our youth to get us to the next level.”
Perkins reminded the students that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who he quoted during his speech, died while fighting for a 10-cents raise for sanitation workers. And he told them although they’ll have some rough times and may even occasionally stumble, they must keep moving forward.