Non-traditional students makeup Morgan’s fall graduate classes

Many students that graduate during fall commencement are older, provide for others or are international students.

Oyin Adedoyin, Staff Writer

Morgan State University’s 2018 fall commencement ceremony was inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren to “change the rules” and many students are doing just that.

When graphic design major, Assays Lewis, put school on hold to help her mother who was suffering from breast cancer, she always knew that she would return to finish her degree.

“My mother got breast cancer. While she was going through with her treatment, she got her master’s [degree], and that inspired me,” Lewis said.

Students who graduate during the fall semester, are typically representative of Morgan’s non-traditional student body. Whether they took a year off of college, wanted to graduate early or decided to further their education later in life, returning to college can be even harder.

Photographer: Jabray Franklin

“Being an adult and going to school undergrad is not easy. You still [have] bills, have to work full-time, you still have things that you need to do and then go to school,” Lewis said. “It’s like having two jobs.”

Lewis made the decision to enroll as a full-time undergraduate student upon her return.

“I saved about $10,000 and paid my rent up for a year, I made that choice to come back to school full-time. If I had children, I couldn’t do that.”

For other students, returning to school was about wanting to make a change in their community.

“I work in a high school and I see the young students coming in everyday with no leadership [skills], especially African-Americans, and I [began] social work to help. They need some guidance,” said William Houston, the only graduate from the School of Social Work.

Houston works at Joseph C. Briscoe School in Baltimore, a level-five alternative school for troubled youth.

Someone has to help the young men in our community, because a lot of times they don’t have any male role models in their life.

— William Houston

Sen. Warren acknowledged the institutional disadvantage that have plagued people of color for decades in her commencement speech.

“As part of the FHA program, the federal government officially adopted a policy of redlining, a practice that effectively denied home mortgages to families of color, and that meant they didn’t get the same chance to build wealth or to pass wealth down to their kids. The results? By the early 1960s, for every dollar of wealth the average white family had, a non-white family had less than 15 cents,” Warren said.

“Rules matter, and our government—not just individuals within the government, but the government itself, has systematically discriminated against Black people in this country,”  she added.

Warren received an honorary degree on behalf of Morgan State and President David Wilson.  Honorary degree recipients also included Dr. Clara I. Adams and Dr. Eugene DeLoatch who are retiring in the Spring semester.

Warren expressed optimism as she addressed the graduating class.

“Even in the face of so much injustice and frustration and cynicism, the Class of 2018 is the most diverse, most vibrant, most hopeful generation of graduates our nation has ever known, the most engaged voters and volunteers, the most creative and determined activists,” she said.

“We need to start making a change instead of just talking about a change,” Houston said.

Graduates have plans to use their degrees to positively impact the community through small acts in the future.

“I actually want to start my own business, I’m looking to open my own studio to give an outlet for youth in the city,” Lewis said.

“Any type of creative activity dancing, singing, I used to be in the marching band…I am very multifaceted in that way and I’m trying to give that back to the community.”