By Bonnie Newman Davis
Long before Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram and other social media platforms, our refrigerators kept us informed about family, friends, events and special occasions close to our hearts.
I still use my refrigerator as my go-to social media source and calendar, especially this time of year when it doubles as a photograph album showcasing the beaming faces of recent high school and college graduates. (My daughter’s five-year-old University of Chicago graduate school photo is a standing feature, of course. She’d question my status as her mother if I ever removed it.)
Time truly has flown since all of these young people entered high school or college in what seems like yesterday. I am close friends with all of their parents or grandparents, whom I’ve known for decades. I know how proud my friends are of their offspring, and I salute them for their tireless work and unending love in shaping these talented young people. Despite the COVID-19 virus upending traditional graduation ceremonies and plans, the chorus of creative celebrations recognizing the graduates’ achievements will be cherished for years to come.
Donald J. Adams, Jr., a 2020 graduate of Collegiate School, is one young man smiling at me from my refrigerator. Also known as Jay, he will attend St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia where he will join the track team as a long jumper and sprinter. As an athlete-scholar, Jay will major in sports marketing and minor in business. At Collegiate, Jay was on both the winter and spring track teams, started as a cornerback on the varsity football team for four years, and served as co-president of the school’s diversity club for 9th-12th graders.
Jay’s sister, Sydney Adams, is a 2020 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is excited to soon begin her
career as an analyst for a management consulting firm in Charlotte, N.C. While at Chapel Hill, Sydney was a Robertson Scholar, a prestigious program that invests in students by providing full scholarships. The program also encourages collaboration between Duke and the University of North Carolina to promote the development of young leaders.
Read more about Sydney here: https://robertsonscholars.org/profiles/sydney-adams/
“College graduation is a milestone I’ve been looking forward to for the last four years,” says Sydney. “Imagining the day I’d walk across the stage was one of the driving forces behind my perseverance and hard work throughout my time at UNC. Thus, losing the traditional experience of Commencement as well as the opportunity to participate in senior activities and officially culminate our beloved undergraduate experience was a loss felt heavily by myself and my close friends. Despite this, I’m so grateful for the nontraditional celebrations that took place and the gracious recognition of my accomplishments that I received from my family and friends, which still made earning my degree special.”
Another young woman whom I have watched blossom since she was in elementary school is Dr. Taylor Lindsey Coombs, a 2020 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Taylor now works at the Banfield Veterinary Hospital in Short Pump.
“I’ve always felt especially connected to animals all of my life and felt the best way to work with them was by direct involvement in their health,” says Taylor. “I’m thrilled to finally begin this rewarding career after so many years of preparation.”
Additional shout outs to two young women whom I met when they were newborns: Kendall Fitz, a Highland Springs High School graduate who will attend Norfolk State University and major in biology.
“The past four years have been everything but easy for me,” says Kendall. “There were many times when I was certain I wasn’t going to make it and times when I didn’t think college was an option for me. But I’m strong and I’m a fighter and I pushed through every obstacle in my own way and I made it! I thank my family for encouraging me and pushing me to be my best self. I am so happy and blessed that I will be attending Norfolk State University in the fall.”
I recall Aazizah Bryan, an accomplished cello player who will attend Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to major in forensics, standing in a playpen in her mother’s upstairs office in
“Never give up because behind every challenge is an opportunity to grow,” says Aazizah.
I’m excited that Mikayla Compere, a young woman who participated in my first BND Summer Media Camp two years at Ephesus SDA Church, informed me of her plans to pursue journalism this fall at Christopher Newport University.
“I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for inspiring me to choose communications as my major to study this upcoming fall,” writes Mikayla, a 2020 graduate of Chesterfield County Public Schools.
Even though I don’t yet have his photo on my fridge, I would be remiss if I did not include my cousin, Khalid Chavis-Hinds, a star basketball player who recently graduated from Smith High School in Greensboro, N.C. While at Smith, Khalid averaged 15 points a game as a point guard. Here’s what one sportswriter wrote about Khalid, who will attend North Carolina Wesleyan on an academic scholarship where he also will play basketball: “He’s a heady floor general with vision, patience, craftiness, and the ability to get everyone involved. Hinds can get downhill to attack the basket, pull-up from midrange, or knock down three-pointers at a solid rate. He understands how to run a team without forcing the action while creating havoc with his defensive prowess.”
Khalid is the grandson of my late uncle Jasper Chavis who, no doubt, is applauding from above.
Finally, a special congratulations to Marsha Vandervall, whose sheer will and determination enabled her to earn a master’s degree in Christian Education with a focus on Biblical Education from Virginia Union University’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology. Marsha is a 1979 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Marsha shares the challenges and accomplishments that she encountered during her graduate school journey, noting that after a 25-year career in healthcare administration, she needed a change. Once she retires, she wants to use her degree to develop Sunday School programs, Vacation Bible Schools and similar church initiatives.
“Returning to school at age 57 definitely had the typical challenges that I expected, like new technology, age-related bias from (much) younger students, and especially getting back into the school groove with papers to write and thick textbooks to read – while working fulltime,” says Marsha. “But to my surprise it was not nearly as difficult as I expected. And I must admit, the environment was very pleasant, including younger students who were willing to help, as well as instructors who recognized the challenges faced by working students my age. Additionally, I had built-in tech support from my adult daughters who were with me every step of the way.”
Marsha, a widow, acknowledges that life “throws you challenges,” but met adversity head on.
“During this educational journey my mother became ill and passed away quite unexpectedly, as well as my grandmother (who was my heart). I also successfully battled two occurrences of kidney cancer. So when I’m asked the question of how do I feel about earning this degree, I am quite literally shouting for joy!!”
Bonnie Newman Davis
Journalist, Journalism Educator, Media Consultant
Executive Director, BND Institute of Media and Culture Inc.