Hundreds of graduates of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) received their degrees and praise for their perseverance on May 14 after having endured unprecedented obstacles due to the coronavirus pandemic along with the more common challenges which students, regardless of age, race or gender, face.
“Congratulations,” said Benjamin Crump, the noted civil rights attorney who served as the commencement speaker and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
“You stayed true to your special purpose and to your people,” he said. “You are powerful. The next Barack Obama, the next Kamala Harris, the next John Lewis and the next Thurgood Marshall may be sitting among you. You didn’t let a pandemic stop you. You will change the world.”
Crump spoke to the 734 graduates at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest. Additionally, hundreds of families and friends attended the event with scores of others watching the proceedings via livestream. The pomp and circumstance of the graduation would be well-received, held live after the past two years which took place virtually because of an order imposed by city leaders banning large-scale indoor events.
Graduates Share Their Stories
Paradise Mingo, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, did not come to the ceremony alone. Strapped to her chest, her 6-month-old son, Jaxsyn, joined her. While many of her classmates chatted, Mingo attended to the needs of her son.
She said her two sons count as the reason she went to UDC.
“I wanted a better future for them,” she said. “I work at the D.C. Public Library. I went to school and worked while raising my sons. It was hard and sometimes I was tired but I had to make it work.”
Mingo said she often worked split shifts, meaning she put in four hours at her designated library branch, went to school four hours and then returned to work to close the branch for the day. At times, she took her infant with her to classes.
“For the most part, my professors at UDC understood what I was going through and were sympathetic,” Mingo said. “Some of my professors were mothers so they knew firsthand what I was going through. Overall, my experience at UDC was great. They offered the right courses at the right time.”
Mingo said while the pandemic adversely affected a lot of classmates, it actually helped her.
“It was a positive experience learning online,” she said. “I was able to be at home more and could interact with my family more. I am a pretty good online learner.”
She plans to use her degree to work as a therapist in the human resources or industrial relations field.
But while Mingo has a picture of what she will do next, Artimas Gross, a resident of Northeast, candidly admitted he’s not sure.
Gross, who received an associate degree from the UDC Community College, said his experience at UDC has opened up a world of possibilities. Gross pointed to earning a bachelor’s degree, perhaps at UDC, as one of his options. The field of human behavior has captured his attention.
“I really don’t know what I want to do as a career but I want to do something that will allow me to encourage youth and uplift the Black community,” he said.
Eugenia Smith, who lives in Northwest, already has her roadmap planned. She’ll soon begin work as an elementary school teacher in the District.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher and now I will get my chance,” Smith said. “My education at UDC prepared me for the classroom. The professors here are amazing. I will keep in touch with them forever.”