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Before they walked across the commencement stage to receive their bachelor's degrees, a number of undergraduates were honored with traditional Kente Cloths for their outstanding academic achievements and demonstrating strong leadership.
"This day embodies my journey through college," said William Medero, one of the Kente Cloth recipients. "It's me celebrating everything I've been through to get here today. It's like a rite of passage into the real world."
More than 150 campus community members, along with family and friends, gathered in the Dunn Conference Room to honor the students at the 13th annual Kente Cloth Brunch.
President Dana Mohler-Faria welcomed the audience to the ceremony and gave the students an encouraging message: stay focused. "There are milestones and opportunities. If you seize them, you can achieve anything, anytime," he said.
Kente Cloth stoles symbolize peace, harmony, knowledge and healing, and the wearing of such cloths is a tradition that originated in Africa thousands of years ago. They are also a symbol of academic achievement within the community of color.
Speaker Andrea Garr-Barnes, director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, opened the brunch by comparing the university to a sturdy home. "One of the wonderful things about this house is that we built it on this wonderful foundation," she said. "No matter how ostentatious or humble the house is, the foundation must be strong enough to sustain."
An additional speaker was Gloria Stanton, '74, G '00, chairperson emeritus for the Hall of Black Achievement and former principal of the Burnell School.
She praised the Kente Cloth celebration, noting how much BSU has grown in diversity since her undergraduate days at Bridgewater, when only a few students of color were enrolled. "It was wonderful to see what has transformed for students of color at BSU," she said.
The Center for Multicultural Affairs hosted the celebration, with support from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Afro-American Alumni Association, College of Graduate Studies, Office of Affirmative Action, the Division of Student Affairs and alumni and development programs. Past alumni presented graduates with their Kente Cloth stoles.
Kelsey Andrade was this year's recipient for the Nguzo Saba Award for student achievement and community service.
"I am truly honored," she said. "This is a gift that I will cherish forever. It serves as my motivation for personal growth and getting more involved in our communities," said Ms. Andrade, who was recognized for her work with BSU's FAM for Change mentoring program, among other service activities.
Guest speaker Luis Rosa, '05, president of the Afro-Am Alumni Association, read the statement of occasion. Student Rahwa Gebrezgi shared a spoken word piece, while Candida Rose of Golden Rose music sang an inspirational song to the graduates. (Sasha Link, Coordinator of Government Relations)