‘A wonderful experience:’ Livingstone ceremony includes many first-generation graduates

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 8, 2016

By Megan Braun
For the Salisbury Post

As student government president Raven Weathers delivered her speech, cheers resounded through the stadium. Weathers, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration, praised the class of 2016 for achieving their goals.

“It’s our time, class of 2016,” she said. “They said I would never make it, but here I am. For a lot of you, that is your testimony too.”

Valedictorian Ronald Harris III created an acronym for “blue,” one of the school’s colors, for his speech. “Believe, love yourself, unite with positive people, and energize the world,” he said.

The class of approximately 130 graduates included four military veterans. Chris Sharpe, of Salisbury, who served in the Army as a truck driver, graduated with a criminal justice degree. He plans to assist veterans and ex-convicts get reincorporated into society.

“It has been an exceptionally good opportunity to learn here, but it was challenging,” he said. Sharpe underwent a total knee replacement not long ago, and still accomplished his goal.

The same rings true for graduate Deanca Crouch, who was severely injured in a car accident in March. She broke her leg and wrist, and all of the skin covering her knee is gone, among other things. Crouch graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history, with hopes of becoming a teacher. She received a standing ovation as she accepted her diploma.

Mary Ponds, former mayor of Granite Quarry and a member of this year’s golden graduates said that 71 percent of this year’s graduating class are first-generation graduates. The golden graduates were recognized for celebrating their 50th graduation anniversary this year.

LaQueena Allison is one of the first-generation graduates.

“It has been a wonderful experience, and I really enjoyed it,” she said.

During commencement, a degree was awarded posthumously to Aiyanna Perkins, who passed away after a car accident in February. Her mother, Sheila Graham, accepted the award.

“It is an honor to be presented with this degree that she worked so hard for,” Graham said. Perkins was about to be commissioned into the U.S. Army at the time of her death.

Livingstone College president Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, Sr. delivered his charge to the graduates by delivering a challenge.

“Your challenge going forward is to not reaffirm the stereotypes. Defy the odds.”