A Graduation Story & Marketing Your University

By David W. Hoard, CEO, DHT Associates

I enjoy graduations and in particular those at HBCUs. There are always fascinating graduation stories as these real life stories make the whole question of whether HBCUs are relevant a moot point. I have been a senior administrator at various HBCUs over my career and helped numerous students.

When I left Jackson State University, I stayed in contact with some of “my kids” as they continued toward their degrees. When you help them, they just become part of your life. I know I’m not the only one with stories to tell. HBCUs are missing prime marketing opportunities to tell these stories, keep these stories on video and market them through the various social media channels.

One young lady insisted that I come to the graduation and her graduation luncheon afterwards. She said her own dad wouldn’t come support her, and that, “I had done more for her than her own dad that she hadn’t seen in years.” I really didn’t do that much for her except listen and give a little advice as to who to see every now and then on campus. She did all of the hard work, but more importantly, she followed through which so many of our young people fail to do. You never know the impact one can have. That’s part of the nurturing aspect of an HBCU.

To give a little background, I was talking to her mother one day and she asked me for help with this young lady. She said she was bright and beautiful and needed another chance. She asked me if I could help her out or at least talk to her. I agreed and gave her a call, talked to her about Jackson State University and said I would talk to the community college transfer office.

She called me back in tears thanking me as they told her “if her credentials from the different community colleges she attended were in order they would provide her a full tuition scholarship that would continue if she maintained her grades.” I’ve gotten credit for helping her with the scholarship but in reality I never mentioned a scholarship when I talked to the office of Community College Relations. They just happened to have some money at the time and she fit the criteria. Sometimes, timing is everything.

This young lady is impressive as a 30 year old mother who has a full of life, three year old daughter. I went to the graduation luncheon and noticed she was busy typing away on her phone; and then she read to us what she just put out for the world to see on Facebook. Upon finishing reading her emotions were overwhelming and she began to cry tears of accomplishment.

What she did is something I have never heard of before in all my years in higher education but the best way to understand her story is to read her actual Facebook message listed below:

“Whew…ok so I was making good money in Detroit, about $45,000 after taxes, but I knew if I lost my job I would have to be lucky enough to get another one making that kind of money without a degree. So, I got my associates, thought about the bachelors but wasn’t willing to be in debt for it. Received a full academic scholarship to JSU, how could I say no?? But how could I give up my job, pull my daughter away from her dad, break my lease and start completely over???? But I did it!!!! I realized how boring Mississippi was and was ready to get the hell on LOL… I got a job making $8 dollars an hour (plus commission) I took no less than 18 credits each semester, 15 for all spring and summer intersessions, 21 last semester and get this… this past semester I took 10 f…king classes!!!! 29 credits!!
I would go to school, go to work, and then back to school then mom duty, then study!!! Maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.9, made two national honor societies, and exceeded all of my sales goals at work. I worked part time but made as many sales as a full time rep because I had bills just like the next person. My daughter was in ballet, she got at LEAST 3 home cooked meals a week, a bedtime story and a bath faithfully, took her to the ER when was sick, dentist, shots and took her to the movies every chance I got, her hair styled done and her clothes stayed clean, she got cupcakes at school for her birthdays and holidays. I didn’t miss a f…cking beat!!! I cried so many nights, in the tub, in the car, stepped out of class sometimes as I was exhausted, but God pulled me through to the very end!! I’m so thankful for my friends, family and even my Instagram people that kept me motivated the whole time. Thank you all!!! I did it man, I really did It.!!!”

This was her Facebook message so forgive some of the language, but this was a raw, spur of the moment outburst on Facebook to the world. She was so happy and proud of her accomplishments. Some of the comments on her Facebook page were remarkable as two friends said she inspired them and they were going to register for school and finish their degrees. What boggles my mind is who takes 29 hours, some online, and gets a 3.9 GPA?

She also told us that sometimes she would feel so bad for her daughter by sneaking her into class and always was apologizing to her. What she didn’t know is that her daughter didn’t know any better and eventually told her when she was apologizing one day that “she likes school and going with her was fun.” What this young lady did for her daughter was immeasurable and her daughter said “she was so happy for her mom.”

One final aspect of the graduation ceremony itself, was that she walked across the stage and to her seat with her diploma. With about 100 students to go, the sound system went out in the stadium and everything came to an awkward halt for about a half hour. Many parents texted their child and said “let’s go,” but this young lady searched for her daughter in the stands, grabbed her, went back out to her ceremony seats and sat her next to her. Once the sound was fixed and commencement continued they ended up walking out in the processional hand in hand. You could not write a better ending. Her only regret about JSU was she couldn’t run for Miss JSU because she was a transfer student. HBCUs check your guidelines as she would have made a great Miss HBCU.

Now this young lady has moved to Atlanta to make her mark in the world in human resources and/or pharmaceutical sales. She has a job offer but, knowing her, she wants more, so if you know of someone looking for a spectacular, dedicated and focused young lady who will make someone rich for a while (eventually I see her running her own company), write me and I will inform her to contact you.

Her story is unique and one for the ages but there are so many like her. She took advantage of an opportunity and excelled. More importantly, JSU gave her the chance.