RALEIGH — Joy, fun, hopes and worries mixed with the humid, summery air as the Class of 2012 of St. Augustines College graduated on Saturday into a still-struggling economy, a heated political climate and reminders of their potential to effect change.
Hot to hotter: The ceremony held on the lawn of the quadrangle began at 75 degrees at 9 a.m. That climbed to 82 degrees by 11:30 a.m. Big oak trees and magnolias provided welcome shade.
Commencement speaker: Donna Brazile, the veteran political strategist, worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 to 2000, when she made history by becoming the first black woman to manage a presidential campaign, working for Al Gore.
Braziles hope for the graduates: You stand at a mountaintop moment, a moment filled with hope. All of this will be hard, but you owe it to your parents and your loved ones to complete the work they set out to do.
Number of graduates: 218
Historic class: The Class of 2012, the 145th of St. Augustines, is the last to graduate from the college.
Not a sign of the apocalypse: The college isnt closing its doors, but starting a new life as a university come August.
Historic class for another reason: Members of the Class of 2012 were wide-eyed freshmen when President Barack Obama, the first black president in U.S. history, was elected in 2008. St. Augustines is a historically black college. The students still light up when they think back on the election.
It was one of the most unforgettable moments, said Tia Colbert, 21. Everyone was outside, running around, marching. Just happy.
Obama: The presidents name and themes of hope and change were repeatedly invoked during the ceremony.
Become agents of change, Brazile told the students. Perhaps one day, I will work on your election and we will get a Madame President elected into the White House.
Calls to action: Dianne Suber, president of St. Augustines, called for the students to be aware of their image, to have knowledge and integrity.
Leave it better than you found it. You may not be able to turn a situation around, but you can leave it better. Build a bridge between your generation and the next generation. That is your mission.
Worried about jobs: Were thinking positive, but were worried. The good Lord brought us this far. Im sure he can get us farther. We pray that everyone, within six months, will get a good start, said Deborah Huckaby, who traveled from Temple Hills, Md., for her daughter, Olivia Huckaby.
Its bad, but its what you make of it, said JeVaye Crawford, 21. After graduation, Im going to Disney World, he said, jokingly. Crawford wants to go to graduate school for music. He majored in communications and broadcasting as an undergraduate.
No shady business: Suber admonished her students to look sharp and take care of their image. You wont get your degree if you walk past me with your shades on.
The girl with the most Lady Gaga-like shoes: Much of the female student body donned precarious 4- and 5-inch pumps and somehow managed to walk across the lawn even as they put divots in the ground and picked up grass on the spiky heels.
One fashionable graduate, April Qualls, a theater and film production major, killed two birds with one stone by wearing gravity-defying platform heel-less high heels.
Quall sashayed across the stage to cheers and applause, hugged Suber and received her diploma.