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Johnson C. Smith University confers degrees via drive-thru ceremony
2020 commencement scheduled for oct. 28
Published Friday, June 5, 2020 4:50 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Johnson C. Smith President Clay Armbrister conferred degrees to 2020 graduates Friday at the campus on Beatties Ford Road. The full commencement exercise was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and will be held Oct. 28.

Johnson C. Smith University went the extra mile to acknowledge the class of 2020.

Keisha Wilson, the university’s registrar, organized time for graduating students in the Charlotte area to pick up their degree as well as their cap and gown, as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed commencement exercises from May 17 to Oct. 28 as part of homecoming week. The rescheduled commencement honoring 271 graduates will take place at Bojangles’ Coliseum.

JCSU President Clay Armbrister presented degrees today in a drive-thru ceremony outside Biddle Hall. Graduates who were unable to attend will be mailed their diplomas.

 “Black degrees matter,” said Wilson, who graduated JCSU in 1996. Her father graduated in 1963. “Some of them never saw themselves getting a degree. They worked, or they had children. For the older [graduates], some of them started with me in 1992, and now are coming back years later to finish. It’s a dream deferred, not denied.”

JCSU transitioned to online instruction on March 30 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Then protests swept the nation in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Louisville, Kentucky. This is the world awaiting the class of 2020.

“The class of 2020 has had some terrible challenges in front of them—the pandemic and these other issues,” Armbrister said. “We just thought that it would be a wonderful thing to put the degrees in hands of those students who are able to come here and obtain them. It’s hard working four years, and even more for some of our students, under the circumstances they have to work, and I have to tell you, this a very hard job. The greatest day of my life is to be able to give out those degrees.”

What comes next for these graduates?

Janiya Miller, the 93rd Miss JCSU, recalled her fondest memories as being a cheerleader and studying abroad in Israel, will pursue a master’s in dance at Temple University in Philadelphia. Miller’s goal is to join a professional dance company and own her own business. Armbrister, who came to Charlotte from Philadelphia, where he worked at Temple University, shared advice with Miller about her move.

“He wants me to take care of his city,” Miller said. “He’s definitely given me some advice on the city and about Temple University, because he has a lot of history there.”

Lelia Lester-Jackson earned her master’s degree, while her daughter Kennedy Jackson pursued an undergraduate degree there.

“Unfortunately, we did not get to experience walking the stage together [in May], but it was an awesome experience,” Lester-Jackson said. “We’ve been shopping a lot. That’s what we’ve been doing to celebrate.”

Standout athletes also made their way through the drive-thru ceremony, including Maiya Green (women’s basketball), Cayse Minor (men’s basketball) and Braxton Gambrell (football).

“It’s bittersweet, because I didn’t get to finish out the last semester of my senior year like I wanted to,” Green said.

Minor is working at a Charlotte moving company but intends to play basketball overseas.

“Right now I’m just taking my time, trying to get myself ready,” he said.

Gambrell participated in Smith’s partnership with Red Ventures, a marketing company based in Fort Mill. His internship there led to a job offer.

“I feel good,” Gambrell said. “They gave me a job making more than my parents made coming out of college at 22 years old. I can’t complain. They’re giving us an opportunity to grow inside the company and grow as people.”

For more information:  https://www.jcsu.edu/news-events/jcsu-alert/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-information/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-information/campus-updates


Overeseas is spelled incorrectly in the article about JCSU's conferring degrees. In the article it's spelled oversees.
Posted on June 7, 2020
Posted on June 6, 2020

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