The Herald-Sun | Bernard Thomas Devin Autry (L) and Robert Traynham (R) are waiting for the procession of the class of 2014, of the Student U College signing day in the Carolina Theatre. Devin Autry will go to the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, and Robert Traynham will go the the Averett University.
By Jamica Ashley
Forty students were part of the inaugural graduating class of Student U, announcing to the community Sunday where they will attend college this fall.
Student U is a college-access organization that advocates for students and creates a pipeline of services to support them through middle and high school. It provides direct services outside of school to help students develop the academic skills and personal well-being needed for success.
Students and their families filled the seats of the historic Carolina Theatre to congratulate and celebrate the hard work and dedication that led to college signing day.
The students’ processional was sprinkled with cheers and applause from the standing crowd.
Student U Executive Director Dan Kimberg thanked the students and their families for the time and memories they’ve shared since 2007.
“We went from being a program to being a community,” he said. “Thank you for sharing your brilliance with us and reminding us to shine our light brightly.
“You have made fearless dreams come true,” said Kimberg. “Thank you for the moments. Together those moments have created a movement. This is your movement. You have created a movement that has the power to change the world.”
Angelica Cohen and Daniel Odeh will attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Chapel Hill this fall. Both gave thanks to Student U for helping them reach this milestone in their lives.
“We call it the Street Corner Syndrome,” Odeh said. “Being here (Student U) you see past your street corner. If you can’t see past your street corner to the world beyond, how can I blame you for not dreaming big?
“We’re trained to know we’re supposed to do something,” he continued. “Statistically, we’re not supposed to make it,”
“We definitely crushed those statistics,” said Cohen. “We made the commitment. We were trained and taught and we looked past our street corner but we’re not at the end yet.”
Cohen was chosen by her peers to give the student keynote address Sunday. One of the first things she acknowledged was how far they had come as a class.
“As a class we have come so far. We also learned what it was to be a family and as brothers and sisters who have each other’s backs,” she said. “We have learned and overcome things we would have never imagined. It’s been a long and difficult process but being able to say we’re going to college, we’re one step closer to changing the world.”
Alexandra Zagbayou, high school program director, said she’s learned several lessons from her students including being authentic, seizing the day and making the most of it and to dream fearlessly and work tirelessly.
“We are certain you are destined to succeed,” she said.
Each student announced at the podium which college he or she will attend in the fall and put on a baseball cap with the college’s name on it. They were given a certificate of completion from Student U and blue cords to wear at their high school graduations.
“When you arrive on campus that first day, remember you are not alone,” Kimberg said. “We are going to be prepared to protect you. You are destined to change the world.”