Leaving the “Hill” to be leaders of tomorrow


The time spent at Florida A&M University may have come to an end, but life has just begun for the Fall 2017 graduates. For these students, life after graduation is about leaving their mark on the world – whether it’s furthering their education or applying for that dream job.

The FAMU symphonic band played “This Christmas” while family and friends gathered in the Al Lawson Multipurpose Center waiting for the second day of commencement services to begin.

The commencement was held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 16 in the Lawson Center. The keynote speaker was Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, who serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the Tenth Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Dallas, Texas.

“Life where there is waiting; waiting for results, waiting for promotions, waiting to walk across that stage, turning your tassel from right to left, get your diploma, waiting for change, waiting for wisdom, waiting for your life to begin, waiting to become something else, waiting for the life you thought you oft to have or the fact you should have, and waiting for it to arrive,” McKenzie said to the graduates. “Good things happen to those who wait, but if you wait too long what you have will be what you had."

Pre’Shontis Jones graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in health science, and she is looking forward to bright endeavors in the future.

“I feel really proud of myself after graduation, and I plan on attending the University of South Florida to go to nursing school, and I just want to continue progressing to eventually becoming a doctor. I want to be an OBGYN [obstetrics and gynecology], so this is just one step closer to that,” Jones said.

Ahron Amerson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and plans on getting a job in his respective field in his hometown, Fort Lauderdale.

“My journey through FAMU has been literally an exaggerating experience. I think when you come in you aren’t aware of what you are putting yourself into and the people you are meeting, and definitely the experiences you get from being in college,” Amerson said. “I have an interview literally two days from now for a background investigations job, so that is really what I want to do and I hope I get it.”

Brenda Vancooten, the mother of graduate Michael Vancooten, said her son is the first male in their family to graduate from a four-year university and to be awarded academic honors, Magna Cum Laude. Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in history.

Michael’s mother expressed her excitement for her son’s accomplishments. “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord he made it,” Brenda said.

Michael said attending FAMU gave him the opportunity to grow and being a member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated has been his most memorable experience on the “hill.” Upon graduating, Michael plans to attend Florida International University for graduate school.

“FAMU has changed me as a man, well actually a kid to a man. I grew and I learned a lot; I pledged a fraternity here, and that was the most memorable here,” Michael said.

McKenzie may have been the keynote speaker for the hour, but her speech left the room with tears, laughter, and rejoice. McKenzie left the Fall 2017 graduates with a message that the book of life is open and it is up to them to continue writing their destiny.

“Class of 2017, the powerful plan goes on, now we’re waiting to see what words you are going to add to the powerful plan. God, bless you. Live your best life,” McKenzie said.