HED:Rust challenges 750 in class of 2000 to graduate
By LaRaye Brown
HOLLY SPRINGS – Rust College officials used their semestral convocation to challenge every member of the class of 2000 to graduate.
Nearly 750 students packed the Morehouse Auditorium of the Doxey Alumni Fine Arts Building Thursday evening to hear College President David L. Beckley.
Beckley encouraged them to remember the examples others have set for them.
“Rust College did not just happen because someone had a dream,” he said. “Someone had to work.”
“These leaders once told us we were the future,” said Beckley, a Rust alumni, as he introduced the students to the alumni faculty members who make up the college’s advisory committee.
As he encouraged the students to accomplish their goals, he shared revealing statistics with them.
“Only 92 of the 241 freshmen who enrolled in the fall will graduate,” he said.
Out of every 100 black children born in 1978, only 72 graduated from high school, Beckley said.
Only 29 of that group would enroll in college, and 12 of those would earn a degree, he added.
He encouraged them not to be another statistic.
“These challenges have been developing all along,” he said. “The real question is how you will face them.
“You must go further than we have been able to go because of the new opportunities and the new challenges that will be put before you,” he said referring to technological advances.
Beckley’s challenge did not fall on deaf ears.
“It inspired me to hit my books a little harder,” said Willie Burley, 19, of Pontotoc.
“It was an inspiration,” said Christopher Bowden, 19, of Tupelo.
“We will have to do more because we are the new generation,” said Raneisha Wallace, 18, of Las Vegas.
Like other colleges, Rust has a problem with retaining students, said Paul Lampley, the academic dean.
According to a college press release, the college has a 40 percent graduation rate.
Lampley said his college’s major difficulty with retention is students transferring to colleges closer to their home and students who leave because they have families to take care of.
Because many students take breaks from college, it takes them more than five years to earn a degree, Lampley said. Those students who do graduate get a lot of family support and are very goal-oriented.
All the freshmen were told to pick up T-shirts, provided by the college, which have the “Class of 2000 printed on them” at designated sites on campus.
“Accepting these T-shirts is your way of saying that we are going to defy the odds,” Beckley said.
“I think it will be easy,” said Raven Goldwyn, a 16-year-old freshman from Chicago.
“It will be a challenge,” said Mareshia Cole, 18, a freshman from Kosciusko. “But I won’t have any problem doing it.”