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The Future Awaits: Clayton State’s Class of 2023 celebrates Fall Commencement

(December 12, 2023) - Even though it wasn’t quite December 25 just yet, Clayton State’s Athletics Center was merry and bright on Friday, December 8, and Saturday, December 9, as the final students of the Class of 2023 celebrated their well-earned graduations at Fall Commencement.

Clayton State Class of 2023 graduates celebrate Fall Commencement

“Today, we celebrate not just academic accomplishments, but the resilience, tenacity, and growth that have brought each graduate to this pivotal juncture,” said Dr. Kimberly McLeod, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “In this shared space, we honor your achievements and the transformative power of education.”

McLeod advised all graduates to embrace both the next chapter that awaits each one of them and the possibilities that lie ahead. She also said to “cherish the knowledge gained and the friendships formed,” as well as the challenges each graduate had overcome to get there.

“This ceremony marks not only the end, but also the beginning of a journey filled with promise and potential,” McLeod said. “Congratulations, graduates, on reaching this milestone. May the future be as bright as the paths you have illuminated during your time here.”

Like McLeod, some of the newest Laker graduates were given the opportunity to speak to their peers to mark the momentous day of celebration.

Those who did wasted no time encouraging their fellow classmates to embrace their futures and not to be frightened by the obstacles ahead.

“As a student with a disability, I have crafted a suit of armor that has allowed me to emerge victorious in the battles of life,” said graduate Kiara Riley. “However, I am not the only warrior in the room. Each of us has faced challenges that have allowed us to sharpen ourselves ... Lakers, enjoy this momentous day and know that you are ready for whatever comes next.”

“My support system is my family, my friends, and, of course, the staff here,” said graduate Daishai Johnson. “I’m not sure if you all know Dr. Eric Bridges ... but he once told his class ‘the goal is for you to rule the world one day.’ I’d never really had anybody give me that power and responsibility [before]. I want you to always remember that the goal is to rule the world.”

Additionally, special guest speakers also graced the stage to provide outgoing advice for the Class of 2023.

These guest speakers included Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony W. Smith, Clayton State University Dean of Students Jeff Jacobs, and Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Exec. Director & CEO Anna Roach.

All three esteemed guests wished the graduating Lakers the best of luck and encouraged them to dig deep moving forward, understanding the potential they have to change the world for the better.

“What you choose to do with this potential is entirely up to you,” Smith said. “You have the power to address seemingly insurmountable problems such as homelessness, lack of access to quality education or resources, food insecurity, or medical breakthroughs. You can even be the bridge to bring diverse cultures together in unity and harmony.”

“Be mindful of the Lakers you are and the great things that are bound to be in store for you,” Jacobs said. “Carry the spirit of learning, kindness, and a broadened definition of reward. Embrace challenges as opportunities, treat others with compassion, and measure your success not just in personal achievements, but in the positive impact you make on the world.”

“Embrace challenge,” Roach said. “Embrace change. Be the change that this world needs around you. But for goodness’ sake, whatever you do, don’t let others define you and certainly don’t let them define what you’re capable of. Know yourself and what you are destined to become ... never forget who you are.”

And finally, Clayton State University President Dr. Georj L. Lewis eagerly congratulated the newest members of the university’s alumni as cheers and joyous shouts rang through the arena.

Before embarking in their next steps, he wished each graduate nothing short of the best and spoke on the perseverance exhibited by each and every member of the Class of 2023.

Lewis said he knew each of them had a story filled with overcoming challenges and the seemingly impossible, and he can’t wait to see what the next chapters hold for all who donned their caps and gowns.

“Clayton State grads have proudly gone on to achieve greatness across the country and around the world,” Lewis said. “And now, you will follow in their footsteps. You will persevere because you are Lakers. And that’s what Lakers do.”

Once again, on behalf of Clayton State University, we would like to wish all graduating seniors from the Class of 2023 the best of luck in their future academics, professional careers, and lives.

Congratulations and Go Lakers!

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