SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
Florida State Senator Chris Smith gave his first commencement address on May 9, addressing 139 graduates of Jacksonville’s Edward Waters College (EWC).
Most recently, Senator Smith proposed a bill that would create a police academy at Edward Waters College to help alleviate the racial disparities among law enforcement agencies, foster a greater understanding and respect for racial and cultural differences, and facilitate the development of effective, non-combative methods of carrying out law enforcement duties in a racially and culturally diverse environment.
Senator Smith shared the stage with President Nathaniel Glover who conferred the 139 undergraduate degrees in the Class of 2015. “This is my first time giving a commencement address,” said Smith. “I am honored to do it here at Edward Waters College because many of their graduates are the first in their families to receive a college degree. So I know generations were changed today.”
During his address at the historical Black institution, Smith provided some practical advice he said he wished he had followed as a recent graduate. “Here are three bold moves I want you to make as graduates. Start a business, buy property and think big.’’
Smith was elected to the Florida Senate in 2008, where he represents 14 municipalities in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Call Me MISTER grad
EWC also graduated its first Call Me MISTER scholar during the 2015 commencement ceremony.
The Call Me MISTER scholarship program is open to African-American males majoring in elementary education and pays for the last two years of course work. Upon graduation, recipients of the “Call Me MISTER” scholarship must teach in an inner-city elementary school in the Duval County Public School system for at least five years.
During the ceremony, Glover presented Bernard Agurs with a Call Me MISTER blazer. Duval County Public Schools District Transformation Office Director Iranetta Wright then met Agurs on the stage to give him his open teaching contract.
Ready to serve
“I’ve had excellent role models in my life, and I want to be one that can make a difference in a child’s life,” said Agurs.
The national scholarship program was created to help increase the number of African-American males who teach in the elementary level. According to the Department of Education, African-American men only make up 2 percent of the 4.8 million educators across the country. Less than one-percent of them teach in elementary schools.
Agurs is the first person in his family to graduate with a college degree.