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Nearly 550 JSU fall 2020 graduates accept their degrees virtually

(JACKSON, Miss.) — About 550 JSU fall graduates participated in a virtual
ceremony from their homes Friday while administrators, deans and other
program participants gathered inside the Lee E. Williams Athletics and
Assembly Center (AAC) to bestow degrees to the 2020 honorees in real time.

Due to COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the university opted
against a traditional in-person ceremony. Instead, students took part in
their graduation from their own homes or other designated environments.

Even for those few program participants who gathered inside the AAC,
social distancing and masks were mandatory. These measures were in keeping
with safety precautions recommended by the CDC, the Mississippi State
Department of Health and the Mississippi Institutions for Higher Learning.

JSU President Thomas K. Hudson acknowledged the struggles resulting from
the pandemic, yet he credited the campus community for laboring extra hard
to make graduation a memorable occasion.

“It’s been a challenge, but it just couldn’t be done without the great
faculty and staff, the people of JSU,” Hudson said. He gave a special
salute to campus television station JSUTV, the Department of
Communications, interim provost Dr. Alisa Mosley, Academic Affairs and
Student Affairs.

While the celebration didn’t include a keynote speaker, remarks were
delivered by LaCori Brent, the graduating senior class president who’s a
biology major from Little Rock, Arkansas.

In her address, Brent commended her peers for remaining resilient during
an unprecedented semester that was interrupted by the novel coronavirus.

She reminded her fellow classmates that “these are troubling times, but we
shall forever prevail. We have been tried but not denied. As we prepare
for the next chapter of our lives know that we have created an unmatched
legacy that really demonstrates that we can succeed – not always because
of but in spite of.”

Even though she said JSU prepared her to face and overcome obstacles, she
regularly recites Philippians 4:13 that her grandmother taught her: “I can
do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Still, however, she boasted about the support from JSU and shared words of
gratitude about her new alma mater. “Because of the classes at Jackson
State, we’re not only academically enhanced but culturally enhanced as
well.”

Brent praised JSU’s scholars “who look just like me and whose wisdom and
guidance are just like those of my aunts and uncles; grandfathers and
grandmothers; and other giants from my community on whose shoulders I
stand on today.”

She said her HBCU experience was extremely valuable because JSU didn’t
shirk from “telling us the hard truths and for reminding us that no matter
the color of our skin or the texture of our hair we should never let
anyone make us think, believe or feel that we are inferior or that we
don’t belong.”

Reflecting more on 2020, she said her classmates witnessed some dark
hours. So, she told them to “remember that it is only in our darkest hours
that we may discover the strength of the bright light within ourselves
that can never be dimmed.”

Despite the unprecedented challenges, she said, “Tough times don’t last,
but tough people do.” That became abundantly clear when students and
professors were forced to resort to online learning and lectures.

Even with that, Brent said, “Nothing can dare deny the resilience of our
spirits as we soar like eagles dedicated and determined to take our
rightful place among other greats who proudly wear the badge of honor and
who we call alumni.”

Her remarks were echoed by Dr. Earlexia Norwood, president of the Jackson
State University National Alumni Association.

“You have earned a degree in the midst of a pandemic. But you have earned
a degree that puts you in the ranks of great alums and those who have done
outstanding deeds. With this degree, you can become and do whatever your
mind and heart’s intent is to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, in his final remarks, Hudson challenged the new alums to
remember JSU “with your time, talent and your financial resources. Visit
often for this will always be your home.”

Furthermore, he urged them to continue striving for the best.

“Jackson State University is an outstanding place to have earned your
degree. So, take full advantage of it. You have made your parents, family,
friends – as well as your university – extremely proud of your
accomplishments,” he said.

Hudson added, “I hope you are proud as well with the character you have
built within yourself. There is no end to education. Your whole life is a
continual learning process. I charge you to never give up. Education is
the most potent tool you can use to revolutionize the world.”