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Black graduates receive special recognition

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by Marirose Agpawa

UNLV’s Alliance of Professionals of African Heritage held a ceremony Friday night, themed “Excellence in Education: Inspire Change for a New Tomorrow,” capturing the hard work and success of this year’s black graduates.

The event marked the second year that the 23rd Annual Students of African Heritage Awards Ceremony and the Ninth Annual African American Student Graduation Celebration were combined.

Dr. William Sullivan, president of the alliance and associate vice president for retention and outreach, said the turnout was the largest they’ve seen in 30 years.

Dr. Esther Langston was pleased with the turnout.

“It was a wonderful event that we planned many years ago to be sure that the students of African American heritage on this campus receive honors for the hard work they did,” she said.

Langston is retiring this year but said that she will continue to be a part of future ceremonies.

Both Sullivan and Langston are two of the five original people involved in the ceremony.

The event featured spoken word poetry and entertainment by the R&R Jazz Band. Speakers included UNLV Professor and the Dean of the College of Education Dr. Christopher Brown, and graduating student speaker Brooke Reid.

“If your body is a temple, then your mind should be a shrine,” Brown said in his speech.

Brown inspired graduates, reminding them that their journey has just begun.

Reid humbled everyone with her personal motivational speech, implying that different is not deficient.

She shared her own struggles as a child, being labeled illiterate and dealing with poverty, drugs, alcoholism and abuse while trying to focus on education.

Reid expressed her thanks to family, especially her mother and elder sibling Sen. Steven Horsford, who were in attendance.

“It was phenomenal to actually see the achievements of the African American student body,” Reid said.

Reid encouraged all students, regardless of race, to get involved with the ceremony. She said the ceremony is held in recognition of the student body as a whole, not just black students.

“[Students] should get on board and strive for excellence…because this is for everybody to have that opportunity,” Reid said.

The ceremony showcased members of the campus community and was also a chance to enjoy the upcoming graduation and commencement with family.

“African Americans only make up 7 percent of the population at UNLV and to honor those achievements and actually show the graduates their accomplishments is rewarding,” Reid said.

Reid also explained that by succeeding, it will show friends and family that dreams can come true.

“It was a great event [and] an opportunity for the campus to celebrate one of the unique sub-populations,” Brown said.

UNLV student Rhea Watson said that she was inspired by the speakers.

“I enjoy seeing that there are African American students who are empowered, responsible, self-sufficient and actually doing something on this campus,” Watson said.

Langston offered a piece of advice and encouragement to attendees.

“I think the students need to [listen] to Dr. Brown’s message and keep pressing forward to that higher mark,” Langston said. “Because they’re the ones that will make the change and they will make the difference in this world.”