Leslie Peters, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County, gives the address during the SEARK Commencement Program at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Friday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
JuJuana Y. Haywood, left, shakes hands with the president of Southeast Arkansas College, Stephen Hilterbran, as she receives her degree at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Friday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Southeast Arkansas College conferred degrees, technical certificates and certificates of proficiency upon graduates at the Fall 2012 commencement ceremony at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Friday night, with a total of 236 students graduating in December.
Prior to beginning the ceremony, SEARK President Steve Hilterbran spoke briefly about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday morning.
“There was a terrible event that happened in Connecticut today,” Hilterbran said. “Of course there are terrible events that occur here in Pine Bluff and around Arkansas but this event today was particularly hard to understand because of the ages of those who were killed. I believe that President Obama said it best today when he said our hearts are broken.”
Continuing with the graduation ceremony, he introduced commencement speaker Leslie Peters, the chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County.
Peters began by saying that as a boy named Leslie growing up in rural Mississippi he had to learn to maintain a high degree of confidence in order to seek out success.
“You look good but you didn’t get here by yourself,” Peters said as he asked the graduates to stand up, face the audience and give their family and friends a round of applause.
Peters said that he wanted to talk about the road that lies ahead before the new graduates.
“There are three points that I want to make to you,” Peters said. “In order to be successful you cannot be afraid to fail. There are only two groups of people out there; extraordinary and ordinary. Look around you and you will see that there are people who started school when you did who are not here tonight. There are those who fell along the way. But you worked hard and you are here.”
“In order to move on to the next step you must fall in love with your passion,” Peters said. “It is that love that inspires me to get up on those mornings that I don’t want to. You must move from your dreams to making them a reality.”
“Don’t be afraid to give people the pink slip,” Peters said for his second point. “Not everybody is qualified to be your friend. You are going to have to disqualify people who don’t add value to your life. If there was somebody you thought was a friend who tried to get you to go out to a concert one night even when you told them you had a test the next day then that person is probably not qualified to be your friend.”
“Finally, don’t seek fame but seek greatness instead,” Peters said. “Greatness is determined by service. Service is an attitude and a choice. When I go into the operating room I don’t want to know how well the doctor did in school or how much money they make or what kind of car they drive. What I want to know is how much passion they have for what they are doing. When you pursue service only then can you achieve greatness.”
In closing, Peters said that everything that he has achieved in his life is due to his desire to serve mankind being stronger than his desire to serve himself.
“Don’t be good, be great,” Peters said.