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Livingstone holds fourth annual Winter Commencement

By Kevin E. Washington
Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY – Bishop Staccato Powell told Livingstone College graduates last week that earning their degrees was only the beginning of what God has in store for them.

This is a commencement, which means it’s the first day of the beginning of the rest of your life,” said Powell, presiding prelate of the Western Episcopal District. “How do the faculty continue to teach? How does Dr. Jenkins continue to go, after 10 years, in a stellar and superb fashion? The first thing is you need to learn to practice His presence. If you keep your mind stayed on Jesus, He will keep you in perfect peace.”

Powell is the former pastor of Grace African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Raleigh and also a member of the Livingstone College Board of Trustees. He delivered the commencement address for Livingstone’s fourth annual Winter Commencement, which was held in Varick Auditorium and featured approximately 45 graduates.

His short speech was peppered with shouts of “amen” and loud applause.

If your bills are high and your funds are low, keep your eyes to the hills from whence cometh your help,” Powell said. “Keep your mind stayed on Jesus. You have to learn how to turn off the noise and concentrate on and bask in His presence. Greater is He that is in you than all of the distractions in the world.”

Livingstone held its first Winter Commencement in 2013. President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, Sr. said he began holding the ceremonies to ensure students who complete their degrees in the fall don’t have to wait until the spring to attend a formal ceremony.

This is our fourth Winter Commencement, and it seems they keep getting better and better,” Jenkins said. “I am so proud of our graduates and pray that each of them takes heed to what Bishop Powell said in his outstanding speech. If our students keep their minds on Jesus and stay focused, they have an excellent chance of achieving more success. They’ve already achieved success by completing their degrees, and I am confident more success is in store for them.”

Sydney Robertson, Damonterris Dawkins, Shane Caldwell and Raven Sansbury were among the students who received their degrees last week at Livingstone. Sansbury lives in Navarre, Florida.

I came back to Livingstone to formally receive my bachelor’s degree and to walk across the stage,” said Sansbury, who’s now in graduate school at the University of Central Florida in a dual master’s degree program. “It was a walk of achievement that I dedicated to those who have helped me at Livingstone College – faculty, staff and even my peers. I’m so grateful to have gotten my degree from Livingstone College, which prepared me well for graduate school. Having a commencement ceremony in December, just days before Christmas, was very special.”

Sansbury said she enjoyed Powell’s remarks.

I thought Bishop Powell’s remarks were very inspiring,” Sansbury said. “He reminded us that we didn’t make it to graduation on our own and that our parents, grandparents and others prayed for us and helped us.”

Powell told the students a way to focus and not get distracted is to be passionate.

When you’re passionate, you don’t have time to get caught up with the nonsense and the petty,” Powell said. “You can’t be passionate sometimes. You’ve got to be passionate all of the time. You know how some people only get happy when they go to church? That’s not right. I do a little dance when I go to the grocery store and swipe my card and it says approved. If you really want to focus, no matter how pristine your purpose or how passionate you are, you have to learn to be in perpetual praise. Praise has a way of being therapeutic and cathartic. Sometimes just throw your head back and just holler ‘thank you, Jesus.’ ”

Powell’s commencement speech was met with a standing ovation from the hundreds of people in Varick Auditorium. Afterward, it was praised by Jenkins.

One thing about Livingstone is we can have church whenever we want to have church, and we just had church this morning,” Jenkins said. Then he quipped: “I’m tempted to take up a collection plate.”

Jenkins thanked Powell for what he called “an outstanding challenge to our senior class” before giving him a Presidential Award of Distinction. When Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Carolyn Wilkerson Duncan presented the degree candidates to the audience, parents, relatives and friends started cheering loudly. Many, including some of the graduates, could hardly contain their emotion.

For me it was a blessing,” said Robert Flint of Landover, Maryland, who received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “Graduation was a mind-blowing experience, and Bishop Powell’s speech really brought me joy. I realize the significance, as a black man, of graduating from college. 

It was a day of emotions for me,” Flint continued. “As I was walking to the stage to accept my degree I was sad about leaving Livingstone, but then I reflected on Bishop Powell’s speech and it gave me the confidence to be able to move forward, to leave college and to step out into the world and achieve all of the great things I want to achieve in life.”

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