Early College graduates given three Ds of success

May. 22, 2014 @ 06:02 PM

The J.D. Clement Early College High School celebrated 10 years by graduating 72 seniors Thursday morning.

The graduates and their families gathered inside N.C. Central University’s McDougald-McLendon Gym to reflect on their time as early college students and look forward to their futures.

“We may never meet again but we’ll never forget each other,” said Neal Hairston IV, salutatorian. “Today is the end of a journey and the start of a new beginning and new adventure.”

The Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School is housed in the Robinson Science building at NCCU but is an autonomous Durham Public Schools high school. The early college program allows students to complete their high school education while earning up to 60 college credits.

J.D. Clement was among the first in the state to begin at a four-year university. The first class to graduate from the high school consisted of 64 students in 2008. The school currently has 346 students enrolled.

Cheers from the stands erupted as soon as the processional began for the school’s seventh graduating class.

Valedictorian Shazeeda Mohamed reminded her classmates that excellence is not a skill but an attitude and that the moments they’ve shared along the way have made them who they are.

“That hard work has paid off,” Mohamed said. “Here we are with college credit that we didn’t have to pay a cent for. Our battle is not over but we leave here knowing that we can handle it.”

Award-winning author and public speaker Willie Jolley gave the commencement address. Jolley told the class, which included his granddaughter, that there are three Ds for determining one’s destiny: dreams, decisions and doing.

“You’ve got to have a dream,” he said. “A dream is the seed to success. You’re going to have to make some tough decisions in order to achieve your dreams. You’re going to have to cut off some people, places and things.

“You have to do,” said Jolley. “You’ve got to take action. When you take action, you receive. You’ve got to act on your dream.”

Jolley pointed out that the road to success isn’t always a straight one and that his success was along a road paved with setbacks and opportunities he wasn’t afraid to take.

“When you leave this school today and start on your journey, you’re going to have some setbacks,” he said. “Remember, a setback is nothing but a setup for a comeback. Don’t let your setbacks stop you.”

NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders White reminded the students that they’ve made history and that their hard work will continue to reap rewards.

“You’ve been here on this campus for 10 years with your dreams and determination and your ability to truly soar,” she said. “You’ve been instructed today to have a dream. You’ve been instructed today to have determination.

“Work had because your hard work will pay dividends,” she said. “We are depending upon you. Your grit, your hard work, your determination because this place called America needs you.”