U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson congratulated more than 700 graduates during Jackson State University’s fall 2013 commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 13, for passing a milestone many others never reach.
“You have achieved something a lot of people wish they could have achieved,” the Bolton, Miss., said at the opening of his commencement address.
Thompson went on to commend the family members of the graduates saying, “You all sacrificed for the graduates.”
The fall 2013 graduation class included 212 graduate students and 550 undergraduate students, including those who completed their requirements during the 2013 summer session.
In his speech, Thompson encouraged the graduates to continue to move forward and to remember those who helped them.
“You have to continue to press on and on,” he said. “If you don’t, you will fail. And when you get that diploma, I want you to thank those people who made it possible. I want you to let them know you appreciate them.”
Thompson is serving his eleventh term in Congress. He is the longest-serving African-American elected official in the state of Mississippi. He is also the only Democrat in the Mississippi Congressional Delegation.
The fall 2013 class included Tracey Sanders, whose journey to JSU took 30 years. During those three decades, she attended Delta State University, married her high school sweetheart, traversed two continents, raised three daughters, cared for an ailing mother and went to work for the Head Start Program in her hometown of Cleveland, Miss.
“I’ve been around the world. I saw President Obama inaugurated both times. I’ve gone places and seen so many things, but nothing will compare to the day I get my degree from JSU,” says Sanders, who’ll receive her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development.
The class also included Sharita Giles, a school administrator who has two master’s degrees. At 15, Giles was a homeless, unwed mother. But by age 19, she was singlehandedly raising three children (one was her younger brother). Well on her way to becoming “just another statistic,” Giles decided to change her course.
“To be honest, it was God. I prayed and God placed people in my life strategically to help me along that path to make sure I was able to finish what I started,” says Giles, who will receive her doctorate in Educational Administration.