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State Rep. Beasley to NCCU graduates: ‘Step up and be heard’

Special to the Peacemaker / May 17, 2018

Happy NCCU graduates. Photos Courtesy NCCU.

DURHAM — North Carolina Central University (NCCU) awarded 600 baccalaureate degrees during the 2018 Commencement Ceremony on May 12, including 274 Bachelor of Science, 185 Bachelor of Arts and 75 Bachelor of Business Administration degrees.

Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye commended one graduate in particular, Xonya Fishe, a mother of 10 who returned to college at the urging of her grandmother. Although her return to classes occurred more than two decades after Fishe left high school, she earned her degree in psychology with a 3.9 grade point average and is making plans to launch her career as an adolescent and family counselor.

Fishe’s mid-life journey was “strenuous,” Akinleye said, as she had to balance her roles as a parent and breadwinner with her studies.
“However, she persisted and remained steadfast in fulfilling the promise she made to her grandmother,” he added.

Also among the graduates was the largest cohort of students — 29 — who entered as members of Aspiring Eagles Academy, an academically based enrichment program for students from low-income backgrounds and those representing the first generation of college graduates in their families. This cohort had a 42 percent four-year graduation rate, nearly 10 points above the national average for all public universities.

“Aspiring Eagles Academy has been my motivation to not only get my work done on time, but pass my classes with nothing below an ‘A’,” said graduate Charles Hinton, who has plans to attend law school. “I don’t think I would have graduated on time without the opportunities I have gained.”

Five students from Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program also graduated Saturday from NCCU. Each will attend graduate or professional school in fall 2018. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, involves eight University of North Carolina System institutions in efforts to increase the number of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Graduates from the Louis Stokes Alliance are: Aleaha Schenck, who will continue her education at North Carolina State University to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry; Jasmine Perry, who will attend the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Pharmacy; Briana Davis, who will begin Duke School of Medicine’s Ph.D. program in cell and molecular biology; Philomena Nwanze, attending Boston University School of Medicine for an M.D. degree; and Michael Hopkins, who is headed for Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Ph.D. program in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology.

Guest speaker N.C. Rep. Chaz Beasley (District 92) encouraged the graduates to “step up and be heard” out of respect for all those not given the opportunity to earn a higher education degree.

“My granddaddy never had a chance to go to college, so having me walk across that stage for him was just like he did it,” said Beasley, a Statesville, N.C., native who now represents Mecklenburg County. “There are many people here today who have that same view of you.”
Beasley, 32, a graduate of Harvard University and Georgetown Law School, urged the Class of 2018 members to continue to seek challenges and experiences that will help them grow.

“Your life is like a novel whose chapters are being written every day,” Beasley said. “Don’t let anyone try to keep you defined by what you have already done…You have a seat at the table. Now take your place.”

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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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