ECSU grads look to the next challenge

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Perry Luster, of High Point, celebrates after accepting his diploma at Elizabeth City State University's spring commencement in the R.L. Vaughan Center, Saturday morning.


By Chris Day
Multimedia Edtior

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Guest speaker Tyrone Poole shared with the graduates seven keywords he said would guide them in their quest for “ultimate success” in life.

One of those graduates, Britney Spence, appreciates the meaning of Poole’s first keyword: sacrifice. Spence spoke briefly outside the R.L. Vaughan Center following Elizabeth City State University’s spring commencement, Saturday morning. 

Spence is 22 years old and has been married three years, she said. The 2015 Northeastern High School graduate said that when she enrolled at ECSU her goal was to remain focused on her family and her academics. That left her little to no time to participate in student on-campus activities and social organizations.

“So, that was something I sacrificed,” said Spence. 

Her sacrifice appears to have paid off, as she was named class Bearer of the Mace, an honor presented each year to the student with the highest grade point average. Spence, who majored in elementary education, achieved a GPA of 3.9.

Spence said she hopes to begin her teaching career locally.

“I’m waiting for another position to open at Northside (Elementary School), which is where I student taught,” she said.

Spence said she realized at an early age that becoming a teacher was something that interested her. Regardless, she started at ECSU as an accounting major and soon after changed her mind.

“Teaching is where my heart is,” she said, adding that her passion is to help children learn.

When asked her greatest challenge as an ECSU student, she said it was an event that happened outside the classroom.

“I would say in my personal life last year I lost my brother,” she said. 

Through that pain she learned the importance of perseverance, she said.

Spence had plans to spend Saturday with her family and will be spending the summer working at a local children’s camp.

The remaining six keywords Poole had for the graduates were turbulence, confrontation, commitment, efficient, stable and spirited.

“You are preparing yourselves for the next level in life by accepting your diplomas,” Poole told them.

Poole spent nearly 15 years playing in the National Football League. He is the founder of the Tyrone Poole 38 Foundation, a nonprofit community outreach program. 

A total of 146 graduates accepted their diplomas on Saturday. Among them was Jordan Ownley, who also hopes to begin his teaching career in northeastern North Carolina. 

Ownley, 22, majored in physical education and is a 2015 graduate of Pasquotank County High School. 

“I’m going to enjoy the day with family and friends,” he said, when asked his post-graduation plans for Saturday.

“I’ve already had two interviews and I’m waiting to hear back,” he said, of his job search.

Like Spence, Ownley said he, too, would like to kick-start his teaching career at a local school. In the meantime he plans to spend the summer working at his current job at Planet Fitness.

Willis Dennis, 27, of Wingate, majored in accounting and said he was ready to go straight into the workforce.

“I have a job interview on Wednesday,” he said.

Harry Smith, who chairs the UNC Board of Governors, greeted friends, family and guests of the graduates. He even pulled out his smartphone and from the stage he snapped a selfie with all the graduates behind him. 

Jeff Dixon, chairman of the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners, also greeted guests and congratulated the students. 

“Thank you for sharing a few years of your life here in Pasqoutank County,” he told them, adding that he hoped they remembered the county and returned.

Smith later presented ECSU Professor Kingsley Nwala a 2018-2019 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.