University of Fort Lauderdale graduates walked across the stage, stood tall and smiled wide. They exuded pride in their accomplishment and joy in the support received from their loved ones in attendance.
The University of Fort Lauderdale Class of 2019 commencement ceremony was on Friday, May 17 at the Faith Center in Fort Lauderdale, pastored by Henry Fernandez who doubles as the chancellor of the school. Fernandez and his wife Carol founded the non-denomination school in 1995.
New members of the church are encouraged to take the university’s discipleship course. Students who complete this course graduate with a certificate of completion.
“I always equate church to an AA meeting; you need to go there to strengthen yourself and keep yourself strengthened, but that’s what the class is about,” Rose Marie Wyche, 47, who was conferred a certificate of completion.
Many of University of Fort Lauderdale’s graduating class are raising families. They have spouses and children to care and provide for in addition to their academic responsibilities. It has been decades since many of them were in school, but this class proved knowledge is ageless.
“You can never say school is over for you because we are always learning,” said Fritz-Nel Desir, 44, who received an associate of arts degree in Business Administration.
Financial responsibility is a large factor to consider when returning to school. University of Fort Lauderdale provides scholarships. Desir received a University of Fort Lauderdale scholarship, which helped him in pursuing his degree.
Balancing home and school life came with its own set of challenges, but University of Fort Lauderdale’s students prevailed. The keynote speaker for the evening acknowledged and commended their efforts.
“Tell them ‘I am rising,’” said Germaine Baugh, CEO, at Urban League of Broward County.
Student remarks were provided by Robert Garrick who revealed he had not walked across a graduation stage in about 30 years - years he spent raising six children and a dog. However, he stood tall on Friday and said, “we are rising.”
Baugh and Garrick never conferred prior to the ceremony but their messages were paralleled. Garrick drew from Nelson Mandela’s words:
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”
The ceremony concluded with the bible verse Proverbs 24:16, delivered by President Ilona Holmes:
“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”