Are they graduating already?

The graduation season has commenced. High school seniors are mailing invitations, and thousands of college students have already donned their academic gowns and hoods.

All the attention to graduation stirs up some of mine and Delaine’s most memorable school adventures. One that I especially remember was a campus protest at Hampton Institute, years ago, that involved Delaine.

The student body was demonstrating about something that seems trivial now – their desire to control student activity funds. Delaine said the students gleefully locked up the school’s trustees in the Katherine House, a building on the riverfront. The trustees escaped by rowing out in a boat and waving at the students on the shore.

As the protest continued, the students devised other creative acts of mischief. Delaine did not worry about her dorm being in peril because the cafeteria was on its first floor, and the students were wise enough not to jeopardize their food supply.

The students received a notice that if they continued their protests, the Veteran’s Administration hospital, which was on the same electrical grid as the campus, would call the National Guard. There was concern that if the lights went out, it would affect the hospital’s patients.

The students did not heed the warning, and the lights flickered at the VA hospital. Hours later, the students received a memo from the campus president telling them that they had until noon of the next day to vacate the campus. They could pack their trunks, and the school would mail them later, but the students had to go.

Graduation was cancelled that year, and the students, including my naive freshman sister, Delaine, had to accept their less than stellar midterm grades.

Perhaps that’s why Delaine is so conscientious now. She learned her lesson. She had not been going to her Physical Science class, thinking she would pull up her grade during finals. She was also concerned about her Physical Education (PE) grade in that it is virtually impossible to do well in Physical Education when you’re not physically there to do the exercises. That episode taught Delaine that second chances are not guaranteed.

My graduation adventures were not that exciting, but I can testify to a delayed degree. Years ago, I worked on my master’s degree in English at Emory University. I erroneously thought my destiny was to become a college professor of English. That did not pan out, and my mother was disappointed that I didn’t complete that degree.

Years later, I started a different program in Curriculum, Instruction and Administration at McDaniel College in Maryland. I loved my course of study at McDaniel, but circumstances intervened. My mother had a stroke, so I moved back to South Carolina to help care for her. I dropped the administration component to speed things up, but by the time I finished, mother had died. I modified my academic plans and finally earned my graduate degree.

Delays, modifications and difficult circumstances are overcome and suddenly graduation is here.. So, dear students, whether you are preparing to graduate from high school or you have competed your college degree and are now preparing to enter the world of work or graduate school, congratulations to you and your family.

Your family must be included because prayers and sacrifices were made for you to succeed. It is time to test your wings. With God’s help, you are ready to soar.

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