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Trio Upward Bound grads honored at ECSU ceremony

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Cole Phelps, a Washington County commissioner and state Senate candidate in District 1, addresses graduates during the annual awards program for Trio Upward Bound at Elizabeth City State University, Thursday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Trio Upward Bound program at Elizabeth City State University recognized students for improvement and academic excellence in a closing ceremony Thursday for the 2018 summer session.

A total of 31 students graduated from the summer session of the federally funded program that provides support to high school graduates preparing to attend college.

D. Cole Phelps, a county commissioner in Washington County and Democratic candidate for N.C. Senate in the 1st District, congratulated the Upward Bound students in his address during the ceremony at the Ridley Student Complex.

“By your achievements this evening, we all witness that you have braved the test with focus, hard work and faith,” Phelps said. “When others saw difficulties, frustrations and disappointment, you pressed on.”

Three special awards were presented at Thursday’s event. Zariah Turner received the Joseph Dempsey Memorial Award, which was established in recognition of ECSU’s former Upward Bound director and is presented to the Bridge Student exhibiting the highest academic achievement. Jahime Perry received the Delores Cooper Citizenship Award, which is given to the student demonstrating personable character, motivation and dedication to excellence. Dynasia Williams received the Maxine Baskerville Highest Grade Point Average Award, named for the longtime director of ECSU’s Special Programs Department.

A number of other students were recognized for improvement and excellence in specific program areas.

Phelps told his own story as a first-generation college student from Washington County who returned home to practice law and was elected to the Washington County Board of Commissioners in his early 20s.

“Some of you have been told or will be told that you don’t have what it takes,” Phelps said. “You may be told that you aren’t the right color or don’t live in the right neighborhood. Some of you have and will face difficulties in life and family circumstances that just seemed to stack the odds against you.”

But in spite of all that, he told the students, you have everything you need to succeed.

“You have proven that the race is not always given to the swift or to the strong but to the person who endures until the very end,” Phelps said. “Leaders have to look beyond the present to a different and better future.”

Phelps shared with the students three thoughts for the coming school year:

* “The 30-second rule: never do anything that you will regret 30 seconds after you do it.”

* “Protect your dream at all costs.” Phelps said there were people who told him he could not become a lawyer. He told the students not to let anyone tell them they can’t succeed in their chosen path. “They may tell you not to do it but I’m telling you to do it anyway,” he said.

* “Be all that you can be.”

Phelps also encouraged the students to become the next generation of leaders in their communities.

“Go off and get your education, but come back,” Phelps said. “We need you to come back to northeastern North Carolina. Never forget where you came from.”

Farrah Jackson Ward, ECSU’s associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, greeted parents and guests on behalf of the university.

“We are excited to prepare our future students for entering higher education,” Ward said.

Upward Bound student Kaleigh Lindenmeir, a freshman at Washington County Early College, said Upward Bound students learned a lot that will help them in the upcoming school year.

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