Florida A&M graduates walked onto the floor of Al Lawson Center Friday in their emerald robes, decorated caps and cords to the rousing cheers of family and friends.
It was the university’s annual summer commencement, and keynote speaker Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons Sr. minced no words in advising the students to build “principles… and character” as they take the next steps on their journeys to adulthood. More than three hundred students graduated.
“My message was about the importance of community, the importance of giving back, opening doors,” said Simmons, pastor of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church, in an interview with the Famuan following the ceremony. “So that is what I hope was gained from it.”
Calling for “accomplishment, yet accountability,” Simmons said he tailored his speech to fit shared values among graduates, who may or may not have the same religious beliefs.
“Don’t worry about the position, get you some principles,” Simmons told graduates. “Don’t worry about the cash, get you some character. Don’t worry about money, get you some morals.”
Interim President Larry Robinson said he especially enjoyed conducting his first commencement ceremony because it followed the opening of the FAMU Rural Diversity Healthcare Center in Crestview, Fla., Wednesday.
“It’s wonderful to see these young people walk across the stage to receive their various diplomas. That’s really what it is all about,” Robinson said.
The College of Arts and Sciences had the most graduates with over 150 and the School of Business and Industry was second with 63 and the School of Applied Health third with 57.
Although there was a consensus of relief and joy during the ceremony, graduates had mixed feelings in the time leading to graduation.
Brandon Anthony, a business administration graduate with a concentration in marketing, said before graduation he was concerned about his future, but he has found opportunities.
“That’s what you’re here for, to figure what you are going to do and what’s the next step. But, from my internship experience, I got a job offer in Orlando at this company called Florida Citrus Sports, so me being a marketing major, I’m doing event planning and marketing for them,” said Anthony.
Economics graduate Ariel Floyd said she left school “kicking and screaming” because she felt classes had grown harder, and she was ready to enter the real world.
Ashley Harris, a psychology graduate, said it didn’t register that she was graduating this semester until she heard Simmons.
“He reminded me of the struggles and adversities I had to face along the way to get here and it made me think, ‘Ahh, I finally made it,'” she said.
She plans to attend a post-baccalaureate program so she can finish her prerequisites for medical school.