Graduates acknowledge those who helped along the way

Graduation is a major milestone in life, and anyone who has helped along the way deserves to be acknowledged. Some seniors at Grambling State University talked about the people who were most influential in helping them to graduate and even prepare for life after college.

Those who were recognized ranged from faculty to family to friends.

Jourdan Rodgers, a kinesiology major from New Orleans, Louisiana, lauded a friend.

“My friend Courtney had the most impact on me achieving this milestone because she was always there for me when I didn’t have family near or when I needed someone to talk to. She was always the person to call on whenever I wanted to give up.”

Rodgers credited her friend with providing not just moral support, but supplying transportation or even a place to rest. 

“Many of times when I didn’t have money or rides, Courtney would help me out by cooking or letting me sleep at her house.

“Courtney gave me faith and expressed to me many times that I’m not alone,” Rodgers said.

Phillip Lee, an engineering major from Donaldsonville, Louisiana, acknowledged that his longtime girlfriend, Monique Johnson, was helpful in his journey to graduation. 

Lee, a defensive back on the GSU football team, admitted life as an athlete “can be tough” and that just having someone to help is useful. He especially appreciated that when he would return from a trip, Johnson would have his entire apartment clean.

Some Mass Communication students recognized TV Center director Alan Blakeney as especially helpful in their journey to graduation.

“Mr. B is one of the teachers who had the most impact on me achieving this milestone. He made me think about my future,” said Tevyn Wade of New Orleans, Louisiana.

“He helped me grow because, although you can move on your own time in college, he taught me about business and professionalism. During concerts or games, I would work at least 12 hours a day, setting up equipment and recording events.”

Wade said he barely had time to enjoy himself at events because he was working. “But in the long run I believe it paid off, and I learned a lot from it. I now have more experience within my career.”

Chelsea René of Los Angeles, California, said she made it her mission to get involved in as many mass communication extracurricular activities as possible, including writing for The Gramblinite and working for The Lab, GSU’s student radio station. But she has spent the last couple of years learning media skills with the TV Center, she said, and acknowledged Blakeney as her favorite instructor on campus.

Her experience at the TV Center made her resume impressive enough to help her earn an internship with Shondaland on Season 6 of Shonda Rhimes’ hit show, How to Get Away With Murder.

“Not only do we gain experience in the classroom, but Mr. B also makes it a mission to provide his students with hands-on experience in the ‘real world,’ while also giving us the opportunity to make connections with people who are already in our aspiring fields,” René said.

“Mr. B introduced me to skills my future self will forever thank him for, and I can say when I graduate I will be confident while applying for jobs in my career.

“I am forever grateful and blessed for my time here at Grambling,” René said.

It’s not just teachers in the classroom who provide inspiration and motivation. Sometimes it’s the physical challenge as much as the mental one. 

“My dance teacher, Diane Maroney, had the most impact on me achieving this milestone,” said Gabrielle Brown, a social work major from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

“When I first attended college I was shy and didn’t express myself. My dance teacher always taught us to be confident.”

Brown said when she was less than successful at ballet, Maroney “pushed me to keep trying.”

“Eventually I became obsessed with myself and didn’t care about how others view me. I went to practice every day, and my confidence started to increase.” 

“She acted as my mother,” Brown said of Maroney-Grigsby, the acclaimed director of GSU’s Orchesis Dance Company.

Football player Kevin Dominique, a running back for the G-Men, credits his coaches with keeping him “on track and focused on the field.” 

Even having to “run stadiums” (running up and down steps in the stadium stands) for missing class was beneficial, said the psychology major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

There are always those friends and family who can be depended on for whatever is needed. 

Donald Johnson said, other than himself, the only person who provided the impetus to push him toward successfully completing his degree was his mother. Johnson is an engineering major from Grambling.

Asya Sample, a kinesiology major from Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she most frequently relied on her friend Kelsey “because she motivated me to not give up and to keep going.”

“She made sure I studied and made sure that I was in class on time,” Sample said. “I remember one time I was overwhelmed because of midterms and she came over to help read over and understand the work.”

One senior who won’t be graduating until the fall semester wanted to extend recognition to an often-forgotten group on campus — workers in McCall Dining Hall.

Daiquiri “DJ” Rabb, a kinesiology major from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and a wide receiver on the GSU football team, said he wanted to give “props to the caf workers for always having a meal cooked for the team.”

*Students who contributed to this report are Chelsea Renee and Tyriell Williams.