Convocation marks beginning of end for early graduation candidates

By Danyelle Gary

Students will soon be adorning their caps and gowns for Hampton University’s Opening Convocation ceremony, but Kayla Blades intends to wear hers a tad bit earlier; a year earlier to be exact.

Blades and a few other students are on track to graduate a full year earlier than expected. 

“I chose to graduate early for financial reasons,” said Blades, a senior criminal justice major from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Rather than pay for a full year, I decided to go to summer school for one semester.”

Charles Graves IV, a senior political science major from Baltimore, has other reasons for wanting to leave HU sooner rather than later.

“[Graduating early] is a challenge,” said Graves, “and I always like to challenge myself.” 

 He is looking forward to attending divinity school and possibly law school and discovering what else is out there beyond his “Home by the Sea.”

And, he said, “I just think it’s time to move on.”

Graduating early is not an easy task. Finding a way to balance 19 or more credit hours – an exception to the maximum 18-credit load – participation in school activities, and an active social life requires sacrifices.

“It’s tough. Sometimes I want to go out,” said Graves, “but I have to stay in and finish a paper.”

Blades, however, has found a way to maintain her 3.4 GPA without forfeiting her time with friends.

“I’m able to balance it,” she said. “I still have a social life.”

With moving on to the career world, some students find it hard to keep in touch with friends, and for Graves and Blades, this doesn’t seem to be any easier. Since they are graduating with the class of 2011, they are leaving many of the friends they started college with behind.

“I’m really going to miss being able to see my friends every day,” Graves said.

“I’m going to miss my friends and just being away and being independent,” said Blades.

With HU’s 68th Opening Convocation ceremony taking place Sunday, the official start of the last year for graduating seniors comes into full affect. It is during this ceremony that the president of the university recognizes the achievement of the new seniors and an appointed speaker addresses an audience filled with family, friends, and soon-to-be graduates.

“I’m looking forward to it because it’s an important hallmark that honors my time here,” Graves said, “but I recognize that the degree isn’t in my hand yet; there’s still time left to go.”

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address to over 1,000 graduates, but Blades prefers a more intimate setting for her forthcoming ceremony.

“I don’t want that whole ‘every-student-can-only-get seven tickets’ thing,” she said. “I just want a simple graduation so my whole family can come.”

With the anticipation of wearing the cap and gown for the first time in front of peers and family, Graves begins to reflect on past convocation experiences, and how this time things will be a little different.  

“I can remember seeing seniors proceed in and look forward to the day I could do it, too,” he said. “Of course know I will be proceeding in and someone will be watching me.”

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.