“Don’t ever forget your experience at this college and how it shaped you,” urged Stephen E. Parker, alumnus and graduation speaker for Southside Virginia Community College’s Commencement held May 13, 2017 on the John H. Daniel Campus under clearing skies. A crowd of approximately 2,500 people attended the annual event.
The commencement event awarded degrees, diplomas and certificates to 1,303 students. Those attending the ceremony walked across the stage to receive their awards from Dr. Al Roberts, SVCC President.
Parker, Director, Education and Workforce, National Governor’s Association (NGA), is a proud graduate of SVCC. Parker directs policy and advocacy for education and workforce issues, including: early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary education, workforce development and child nutrition. He is responsible for the development and implementation of governors’ strategic priorities through the Education and Workforce Committee. Parker is the liaison between governors and the federal government on education, human services and workforce issues.
He reminded the graduates to “aspire to run YOUR world, not THE world.
“Very few will run the world, but it is possible for everyone to run their own world. Furthermore, power to uplift people can be so much more impactful than power over people.”
Also, he continued, as Aaron Sorkin wrote, “Having education and talent does not place you above the rest of the world. It makes you responsible for it.”
Parker noted that he was raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet and he had no expectations of being able to attend college.
“If there was no money for food, then there certainly would be no money for college. I was destined to join my mother and her parents as the third generation in my family to never attend college.”
Thanks to the local community college and financial assistance from federal and state sources, Parker became the first college graduate in his family and two years ago, his mother became the second, also graduating from SVCC.
He concluded singing the words of Mavis Staples from “I Know A Place,” a reminder that SVCC is a good place to know and remember.
He said he wished for each graduate, the same genuine care and investment in their future that they experienced at SVCC.
Parker serves on the SVCC foundation board. He also received his bachelor’s degree at Longwood University, and completed postgraduate work in political leadership at the University of Virginia and public policy at the College of William and Mary.