ELLISVILLE– Extraordinary was the word used to describe the 551 graduates who participated in Jones County Junior College’s spring commencement exercises held May 16, in Ellisville.
As he addressed the audience of graduates and well-wishers that filled the A.B. Howard/Bobcat Gymnasium, JCJC President Dr. Jesse Smith named off both academic and athletic achievements of this year’s students and said, “This class is extraordinary, and achievement is in their blood. It is only fitting that today you get to hear from a man from Jones County who went to Rome and won a gold medal for America.”
That man was the ceremony’s keynote speaker, U.S. Olympic gold medal track star and Laurel native, Ralph Boston, who told the students his definition of success.
“To me, it is ending the day secure in the knowledge that I’ve done the best that I could in that day,” he said. “Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ If you’re honest, knowing yourself is simple.”
He shared examples of people who overcame great obstacles, such as Stevie Wonder, Wilma Rudolph and Ludwig van Beethoven. “If a blind, lame or deaf person can succeed, why should we do any less?” he asked the audience.
He further explained that students should set goals, be persistent, stay focused and be confident. “Use your minds because it’s the most productive resource you have. Allow it to absorb the most sophisticated data you can. Read.”
Boston’s successes began when, as a college student, he broke the world record, previously held by Jesse Owens for 25 years, with a long jump of nearly 27 feet. He continued to break records, and while on the U.S. Olympic team, won gold, silver and bronze medals.
It was only fitting that someone with local roots whose successes began in college addressed this year’s JCJC graduates, as many of them were enjoying successes of their own, especially the women’s athletic teams, many of whom have made it to national competition.
Elizabeth Wright, a pre-engineering major from Gautier, has been a member of the Lady Bobcats tennis team the past two years, which both years has qualified for the National Championship. This year the team also won the State and Region Tournament.
Wright, who has a 4.0 GPA and will attend Mississippi State University in the fall, will begin an internship with GE Aviation this summer. Wright credits Jones as giving her the opportunity for the selective internship at GE.
“If I had not had my Honors professor suggest that I apply for an interview for it, I would have never known the opportunity that was just around the corner,” she said. “I was blessed to have been placed in a nurturing college environment with faculty who truly wish to see their student become everything that God designed them for.”
Said Wright of Boston’s address to her class: “It’s truly inspiring hearing someone who has accomplished so much with his own life give us encouragement to continue on our own journey. One of his main points was to not quit. As we transition out of our junior college environment, it’s so important to remember that Jones is the starting point and our journey has just begun. It’s too early in the race to give up. I am so excited to see what the next chapter brings me.”