Issue 538: 5 / 5 / 2014

Former NBA Head Coach Lionel Hollins Urged Southwest Graduates to Persevere With “Grit and Grind”

Lionel Hollins encourages graduates to ...

Lionel Hollins encourages graduates to give to others.

President Essex applauds after special ...

President Essex applauds after special recognitions.

Kurt Fritjofson addresses the Southwest ...

Kurt Fritjofson addresses the Southwest Class of 2014.

With heads held high, 1,677 candidates marched triumphantly across the stage of the Landers Center in Desoto County, Mississippi, to receive hard earned Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Science in Teaching, Associate of Applied Science Degrees, and certificates during the Southwest Tennessee Community College 2014 Commencement Ceremony on May 3. Briefly recalling a childhood of tattered clothing and living on a street  he called the “arm pit” of the glittering lights of Las Vegas, Southwest's 2014 Commencement Speaker, Former NBA Head Coach Lionel Hollins, never imagined the path his life would take. He told the graduates that you can’t change your past, but you can determine your future. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” said Hollins, quoting Nelson Mandela. “But, I believe you can change yourself,” he stated. Following an uplifting message on hope, giving and volunteerism, Hollins told Southwest graduates if they're to persevere, it will take a lot of “grit and grind.”

“We are champions,” Student Commencement Speaker Kurt Fritjofson proclaimed to his fellow classmates. “We will all enter the community as leaders. It is up to us to decide whether we shall improve on the community built by those who came before us. We dare not disappoint," Fritjofson challenged the 2014 graduates.

Besides weathering the storms and challenges students face while earning their degrees, a special few overcame formidable odds to reach this landmark. “Marden, a 19th century  motivationist wrote ‘Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds,’" said President Essex as he introduced  the following:

  • Shawanda Barbee, a resident of Tipton County (where there is no public transportation) paid enormous fees, and on numerous occasions, stayed overnight in order get to class on time the next day. Barbee earned an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies with a 3.17 GPA.
  • Mallory Windham, a single parent, who worked two jobs, encountered numerous health challenges including spinal surgery. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Windham earned an Associate of Science Degree, in Business Administration with a 3.71 GPA.
  • Russell Jones, who lost his eyesight in 2005 at the age of 48, returned to college in 2012 to graduate with an Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice with a GPA of 3.05.
  • Dontae Saine persisted, despite setbacks from sickle cell disease, to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Computer Technology.
  • Brandon Carmichael, dually enrolled in Southwest and Millington Central High School, earned a Technical Certificate in Electrical/Electronic Fundamentals, in addition to a high school diploma from Millington Central.

President Essex recognized Jessica L. Banks, as she graduated posthumously with an Associate of Science Degree in General Studies following her recent death. Banks was a member of the Campus Activity Board, the Southwest Leadership Institute and the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature Team.

Recognition was also given to members of Southwest staff who earned degrees, as well as United States veterans.

View the Southwest 2014 Commencement Photo Gallery.