Good luck, new graduates

Dec. 16, 2013 @ 06:16 PM

The pomp and circumstance of college graduation is firmly aligned in most of our imaginations with springtime. For the (mostly) young men and women who clutch their newly embossed degrees, the march across the stage comes in May, shoulder-to-shoulder with classmates who have spent the previous four years on campus together.

But for a number of graduates each year, the moment of celebration comes in December, with smaller crowds and more subdued ceremonies. For those new alumni embarking on the post-college phase of their life, the moment is no less significant, however, and the pride at perseverance and accomplishment just as great.

Both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N. C. Central University held their annual winter commencement ceremonies this past weekend, taking over the usual environs, this time of year, of basketball games. About 1,100 UNC students heard their names called out at the Smith Center, and several hundred NCCU graduates received their degrees at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium.

Haley McLoud, who was graduating Sunday at UNC because she finished her history degree a half-year early, probably spoke for nearly all of her fellow graduates at both schools.

“I’m excited but a little nervous about the future,” McLoud, who plans to go to law school, told The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash. 

The nervousness is not surprising. Aside from the fact college graduation means an end to an education routine that in some form has enveloped these graduates for 16 years or more -- three-fourths of their lives -- they are exiting into a job market that still is struggling to recover fully from the Great Recession. 

NCCU graduate Erica Allen exuded optimism in the face of such uncertainty. Not sure what she will do, she hopes to become an entrepreneur who starts a boutique or a gallery.
“I’m exploring my voice,” she told Dudash. “It’s getting louder and louder as I keep going.”

Allen and her fellow graduates generally will face a far brighter future with their degrees than contemporaries who ended their education at high school graduation or before.

Dr. Annika Barnett, the commencement speaker at NCCU Saturday, stressed that asset in her talk to graduates. The first NCCU graduate to attend Harvard Medical School and, at 26, the youngest commencement speaker in school history, Barnett could offer her own path as a potential model for the graduating seniors.

“Please don’t think my story has to be an anomaly,” she said. “You all have the capabilities and gifts to achieve your dreams. The only thing holding you back is fear.”

That is advice both sound and timeless, and one we hope this winter’s graduates take to heart. For completing this stage in their life’s journey we congratulate them, and wish them the best of fortune as they undertake the next.