After marching across the stage over a month ago, some Grambling graduates begin to understand the commencement speaker’s message.
“It would be disingenuous if I didn’t tell you are graduating into a tough economic environment,” said Charles Blow, 42, a New York columnist.
Although, the over 600 graduates have been told this statement countless times by peers, faculty, staff and friends, it doesn’t hit home until they are stuck searching for a job.
One graduate, Allison Akins, 23, a history major from Houston, recently moved from Ruston back home in order to find better job opportunities. She also believes that in a tough ecomony like today, it’s “more about who you know than what you know.”
Blow, a 1992 Grambling graduate, delivered the commencement address at the university’s May 10 event. Blow informed students that success is a decision to be better than the competition.
Coming from a historical black college, many students believe they are not offered the same opportunities as others. While this may be true, Blow argues, “No one has more hours in the day than you.”
Blow says some may be more privileged or offered more opportunity but “no one can work harder than you, unless you let them.”
The Louisiana native warned students not to become crutches of their circumstances, but to allow the “Grambling grit” to take over. The Grambling Grit is an “unweaving perseverance” and he tells each graduate it’s their hereditary now.
Blow used the Grambling grit to land an internship at the New York Times, and eventually a job. They “never had an internship in (his) area” until his persistence, hard work and dedication impressed them to do so.
“You don’t tell a Grambling student on a mission, no,” said Blow.
He was told “no” multiple times on his path to become an intern for the New York Times. No matter the obstacle he worked around it. In order to keep going, sometimes he imagines himself dancing on the other side of his barriers.
Atkins understands that on her journey to provide a better life for her child, she will be told ‘no’ just like Blow. She comes from a long line of Grambling successful graduates and she believes that her education and experiences have prepared her for this moment. She is currently applying for jobs in the Houston area. The graduate anticipations being denied but is confident God will open the right doors.
Blow told students, “You can make it to the top of the hill,” but you have to pack up your talents, strap on your boots and be well prepared for the trip ahead.”
The opinionated journalist understands the uneasy feelings some graduates may face as they are handed their diplomas.
“I was you and I am you,” said Blow. “I have truly walked where you walked and sat where you sat.”
Blow graduated manga cum laude with a bachelors in mass communications. As a student, he was the editor-in-chief of The Gramblinite, and the founder of the now-defunct student magazine Razz.
The Louisiana native joined the New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor. He was promoted as graphics director to lead the graphics team; he held that position for nine years. Blow moved on to publish weekly columns for the paper.
There were many students honored throughout the ceremony including the class’s valedictorian, Gail Sharlpis. The mass communication major from Dominica finished with a 4.0 cumulative grade point average.
One of her biggest challenges while attending Grambling was being so far from home. She remembers long nights when she would “cry (herself) to sleep because (she) was homesick.”