Graduating from college is such a wonderful experience. Often times you will have family and friends coming from all over the world to celebrate “your special day.” I’ve been to many college graduations including my own; however this years commencement was exceptionally different. On May 19, 2013 the nationally known Spelman College of Atlanta, GA celebrated their 126th commencement with more than 500 graduates. Spelman College (www.spelman.com) was founded in 1881 and is the oldest African American college for women. Amongst the graduates were a set of “twin valedictorians” with a 4.0 GPA by the names of Kristie and Kirstie Bronner. They both received their Bachelor of Arts Degrees in music with special honors in music and the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. I’ve heard of twins having many similarities; however this was absolutely amazing. The accomplishments of these two young ladies is truly an example of discipline, focus and excellence. Prior to the commencement, I was able to speak with the twins and this is what they shared with me regarding their inspiration on life while attending Spelman. “God has been so awesome in my life and this is what has helped me to grow as a young woman while attending Spelman and to embrace variety in human culture and personality”, said Kristie. “Trust has been my biggest inspiration to gain more confidence in myself as a person and God’s plan fo rmy life. Spelman has an emphasis on leadership, community service and personal development and the choice to “change the world” as the school song encourages women to be the change that they desire to see in the world,” said Kirstie.
Dr. Beverly D. Tatum became the ninth president of Spelman in 2002 and under her leadership, she has led the college to be a nationally known leader in liberal arts and science. Spelman has one of the best graduation rates in the nation which is presently at 80%. Their student body consists of more than 2,100 from 41 states and 15 foreign countries. In 2012 Spelman launched its Wellness Revolution which is designed to help students to embrace the value of their lives by living more healthy lifestyles.
I could relate to the tears of joy that I saw amongst many faces of young women who stood in line to hear their names called as they received their diploma. This particular commencement was not only different for me, but quite inspirational as well. The valedictory address given by Kirstie and Kristie to their Spelman sisters encouraged them to be content with who they are as a person and to embrace the change when it comes. During their speech, they shared their personal experience in being home schooled as teenagers and how this taught them self discipline which led them to their success while in college. They concluded their commencement speech by stating that although they’re at the end of their college journey; they’re at the beginning of their destiny.
Prior to the commencement, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Salutatorian – Shay N. Johnson who received her degree with honors in Political Science. Shay will be attending Harvard in the Fall to study International Law with a focus on human rights. Her greatest inspiration while attending Spelman was the community service, internships and numerous opportunities she’s been blessed to experience. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Senior Class President – Monique Gray. Monique received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Women’s Studies and is heading off to Beijing, China to study women’s public health. Her greatest inspiration while attending Spelman was the nomination as Senior Class President. Speaking of presidents and top people; the commencement speaker was U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin oversees the operational command of 6,500 uniformed public health officers who serve around the world to protect the health of American people. Her commencement speech encouraged graduates to change the mentality of cultural change and to remember to always reach back to help those coming up behind them. Upon the conclusion of her commencement speech, Dr. Benjamin received the Doctor of Humanity Letter Honorary Degree. The Honorable Harriett M. Murphy (class of ’49 Spelman) who is retired judge from Austin, TX received an Honorable Degree of Doctor of Laws. Freeman A. Hrabowski III – Pres. of University of Maryland received the Doctory of Humane Letters Honorary Degree and Reverend Joseph E. Lowery received the Board of Trustees National Community Service Award. Dr. Bevery Tatum closed out the commencement by reminding the graduates of their school song “choose to change the world.” Next she informed them that they were being released to the world and that the name of Spelman will open doors to them; so it’s up to each graduate to represent Spelman College to the best of their ability.
Kristie and Kirstie Bronner are already on the paths of success. They both will be working at their fathers church Word Of Faith Family Worship and Cathedral within the music department as music directors, youth event coordinators and youth counselors. They also have plans to record a Gospel
cd. So, as they graduate from Spelman in excellence, they would like to share some advice to young people enrolled or college bound. “Work like it is all up to you and pray like it is all up to God. College teaches you not only academics, but also life lessons about yourself, others and life changing experiences. College can develop you, expand your thinking beyond its current level and provide connections with people that can help you throughout life. Love life with commitment to excellence” – says Kristie and Kirstie.
I left the commencement with a feeling of contentment and joy within my heart. I truly had experienced a very inspirational commencement this year with Spelman that I will never forget.