Keys to success | Education

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Harris-Stowe State University celebrated its convocation on Saturday, May 7, 2022, and there was a feeling of family at the Emerson Performance Center. This was not lost on HSSU President LaTonia Collins Smith.

“We create lasting family ties with our students. That’s the power of Harris-Stowe,” she said.

“You have overcome tremendous obstacles in your educational journey, and your story will serve as a beacon of light and hope for all.”

Following the departure of former HSSU President Corey S. Bradford Sr. shortly after the start of last year, Smith was named interim president on June 1, 2021. She was named the 21st president of the university on February 28, 2022 and presided over its first commencement.

Like her rise to the presidency of HSSU from provost and vice president for academic affairs, Smith in her message to graduates said “this is truly a monumental step in your life.”

Valerie Patton, Greater St. Louis Inc., head of the office of diversity, equity and inclusion, and president of the Greater St. Louis Foundation, told the graduates during his welcome message, “Now you have something something no one can take away from you. It is something better than silver and gold.

“You have knowledge. You have skills that will allow you to perform incredible feats in the world. You have the knowledge of a graduate from an institution that has a great, extraordinary and distinguished heritage.

Michigan-born and raised actor, producer, and author Christian Keyes began his commencement speech by telling the graduates, “The last thing you need is another conference, so this is not a speech. I just want to share a few things that I have learned in my 46 years on this Earth”

He challenged graduates to pursue their dreams “and lean into them.”

“Start this thing. Create this thing. Do not be afraid. Failure hurts a lot less than regret. I promise you,” said Keyes, whose acting credits include Tyler Perry’s “What’s Done in the Dark” and “Madea Goes to Jail, and BET’s Let’s Stay Together.”

While in college, Keyes said he made drawings of a Bentley SUV he imagined in his mind.

“I never showed anyone. I thought they would laugh at me. Who will take me seriously? he said.

“What came out in 2018? They didn’t steal my idea. God gave this vision to someone else because I didn’t move when He gave it to me. I didn’t have the audacity to continue. You should have that audacity to chase those [dreams.]

“It will give you the opportunity to hire people who look like us, because nobody treats us or celebrates us like us.”

He told graduates that it’s good to have goals, but there’s still work to be done to achieve them.

“I hope you fall in love with the improvement process. If you do that, it makes you dangerous and unstoppable,” he said.

“Chase ‘the bag.’ I know “the bag” is money, but this bag is not money. The bag is your purpose. The money will come when you pursue your true purpose. The best is yet to come. Your best years are yet to come.

He shared with the audience that he was an adopted child, had lived in many homes and had been homeless. He was a victim of “cruel child abuse”.

“I’m only telling you this to be transparent. It forged character, it built strength. Regardless of what you’ve been through, be fearless. Keep inquiring. Be responsible. Be awesome,” Keyes said.

“Be fearless. Educate yourself, be responsible.

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