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Educational Opportunity Program Convocation: “Inspire”

EOP Commencement

Vanessa Gordon addresses the audience after earning the Outstanding Service Award at the 2013 EOP Graduation Ceremony (Stanley Olszewski photo).

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

The Tommie Smith and John Carlos Statue towered over attendees of the Educational Opportunity Program graduation ceremony, as participants, staff and guests enjoyed an array of foods and drinks prior to the event.

On this breezy May evening, the voices of individuals who have come so far echoed back toward nearby Clark Hall. Keynote speaker Shaun Tai, ’07 Interdisciplinary Studies, shared his voice as a Spartan who founded Oakland Digital, a nonprofit organization “that provides digital literacy education to small businesses and professional development training to students” in Oakland and the rest of the East Bay.

“Find your inspiration,” Tai said. “Inspire your community and inspire the world, starting today and starting right now.”

Coleetta McElroy, ’97 Public Administration, introduced these newly minted alumni to the benefits of the SJSU Alumni Association, announcing that EOP had taken care of a one-year membership for all.

McElroy, SJSU director of financial aid and scholarship, also called up each individual one by one. Many of the 54 graduates listed on the back of the program were in attendance with their loved ones.

Each person received one to two minutes behind the podium to share his or her appreciation. Some comments elicited chuckles such as thanking EOP for providing free food over the years, while more than one student’s gratitude for their mothers encouraged tears.

Inspiring words and inspirational people walked hand in hand among the group. Graduate Van Nguyen, a sharply dressed bespectacled man who identified himself as being in his 80s, shared a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”

Graduates Vanessa Gordon and Long Kieu earned the Outstanding Community Service Award and the Maria D.L.C. Romo Award, respectively.

Gordon thanked her parents, saying, “I want to make them proud and show that I could do it.”

Kieu gave a shout-out to his younger sister in the audience, who found out she was attending his ceremony at the last minute. “I want to show her, ’You’re an inspiration to me,’” he said. “… Because of you, I want to be a role model for you.”