Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Virginia State University Class of 2014
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
May 13, 2014, 13:43

CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Graduates stood and waved to their mothers and honored them during the commencement ceremony on Sunday morning.
CHESTERFIELD — Behind the doors of the Richmond Coliseum moments before graduation stood about 600 students, eager to take the walk to the stage and get to the next chapter in their lives. Family and friends gathered in the stadium seats, with balloons, flowers, and cameras poised, ready to capture the Virginia State University commencement. 

Liana Acevedo, from Dumfries, majoring in hospitality management and graduating from the College of Agriculture, said while she was excited to walk to the stage, reality had not quite caught up to her yet. 

“It’s weird,” Acevedo said. “I’m done but it doesn’t feel like I’m done.” 

Though the diploma was not in her hands, Acevedo already had a full-time job lined up at the Hyatt Place in Chester, where she plans to spend a couple years before moving on to her next goal. 

“After that, my game plan is take over the world,” Acevedo said while laughing. 

Jahliel Thurman, president of the Student Government Association at VSU, said the students gathered in the Coliseum had spent their time at the university drinking from the fountain of knowledge and from that came power. 

“So I ask you what is power,” Thurman said. “Power is strength and the ability to lend that strength to others so they can stand on their own.”

Thurman’s message, to graduating students like Acevedo, was that with power came the chance to choose their own destiny. 

“Today is the start of many challenges to come as you strive for success,” Thurman said. “Success is failure, after failure, after failure, without loss of enthusiasm.” 

That spirit of optimism was continued by Sen. Timothy Kaine, the speaker at Sunday morning’s 128th commencement ceremony. In keeping with honoring the mothers at the ceremony, as it was Mother’s Day, he told the graduates about advice his mother handed down to him many years ago. 

“My mother impressed something very important on me. You have a decision to make in life. Would you rather be right or would you rather do right?” Kaine asked. “If you’re negative and pessimistic about things, you’re often going to be proven right.” 

Sen. Timothy Kaine gives the commencement address. He told the graduates to keep an ‘optimistic spirit.’
Kaine said though people who are right get to tell others, they often lead a life of negativity. He told the graduates that their perspectives would shape their futures. 

“Events don’t happen separate from you. You shape events,” Kaine said. “Positive attitude is the key.” 

Kaine was honored by VSU that morning as he received the President’s Medal. In addition to Kaine being honored, James Keith Copeland Jr., Class of 1995, was recognized as the Alumnus of the Year, and Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Class of 1954, was the Honorary Degree recipient. 

Cotton is recognized as the “highest ranking woman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during most of the ‘60s.” She worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the height of the civil rights movement. 

Ryan Villogram, a graduate of the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business, from Maryland, majoring in marketing, embodied that optimistic spirit Kaine spoke of during his address. Villogram said though he knows hard times are ahead after graduation, he is ready for them. 

“I’m ready for it,” Villogram said of life after graduation. “I can’t avoid it. I have been preparing for it. ... I can speculate, I can guess. I do know there’s going to be hard times, but I’m ready for it.” 

As he stood in line ready to join his fellow graduates out on the floor of the Coliseum, Villogram had a hard time containing his excitement. 

“I’ve been waiting for months,” he said, adding he has already secured a job with Edward Jones as a financial advisor. “It’s very, very exciting. It was a very, very long journey.”

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