Texas College Saturday Ceremony Honors Grads
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Proud mom Jennifer Harris, of Humble, was crying Saturday long before a single Texas College graduate accepted a diploma during the spring 2012 commencement ceremony.
She and husband, Earnest Harris, were among a near-capacity crowd gathered at the 1,792-seat Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler to celebrate the academic achievements of 100 graduates.
The couple was supporting son, Justin Abrom, and daughter, Anastacia Abrom-Palmer, a newlywed.
"Both are graduating today," Harris said, praising his stepchildren's hard work. "He's with Texas College; she's with Jarvis Christian College. It's a milestone today -- a major, major milestone for the family."
Mrs. Harris, who also graduated from Texas College, said it's been a busy spring -- after two graduations and a March wedding ceremony, she is looking forward to watching her adult children start their lives.
"Yes, these are tears of joy," she teased, dabbing her eyes. "Now I can start having a little extra money in the checkbook."
Officials with Texas College, founded in 1894, took the opportunity Saturday to praise not only the students, but also people like the Harrises who supported them along the way.
"It's been a team effort and we're delighted your team is here today," said Bishop Henry M. Williamson, Sr., Texas College Board of Trustees chairman, garnering applause from the audience filled with family, friends and supporters.
Bishop Lawrence L. Reddick, III, a Tennessee pastor, scholar and philanthropist recognized as the 51st bishop elected to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, was tapped to give the commencement address.
He extended a few words of advice: Respect yourself, set goals, acknowledge those who help you along the way and look for opportunities to help others.
"Find your passion and pursue it," he said. "Look beyond yourself to a faith that will keep you grounded, keep you focused -- realize your dream and plan your future."
Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass and Dr. Barbara Hawkins, executive director Texas Association of Developing Colleges, each urged the students to put their education to good use, improving their lives and those around them.
Dr. Dwight J. Fennell, Sr., conferred the degrees, including two honorary Doctorate Degrees to Reddick and Dr. Jerry L. Christian, Sr.
Hope for a bright future seemed evident among the students receiving their degrees.
Geraldine Harrison, 63, a Dallas minister receiving her Associate's Degree in general studies, said it's never too late to learn.
"I'm the first of five out of my family," she said. "I'm excited. I wanted to see if I could do it. To everyone else, don't wait until you are 63 like me -- continue your education. It's out there, we can make a difference ... to God be the glory."
Ryan Alridge, 24, of Houston, received his Bachelor's Degree in physical education.
"I'm going to go back home and get a job," he said, grinning widely. "This means a whole lot to me. I've been here for five years and I've finally done it."
Kenya McCoo, 23, of Dallas, said her Associate's Degree is just the beginning of her educational journey.
"I'm accepting something today that shows that I set a goal and met it," she said. "I'm planning to go to grad school to be a speech pathologist."
While his relieved mother, Mrs. Harris, was sniffling inside the auditorium, Justin Abrom, 23, was standing with classmates formulating a job hunt.
He has a new Bachelor's Degree in business administration and wants to find something dealing with financial analysis.
"I can't even explain what it feels like," he said. "My mother and father came to Texas College and I kept the tradition. It feels good ... I finally made it."