Graduates take part in commencement ceremonies Friday night

Although graduation was Saturday, some graduating seniors participated in ceremonies and rites of passage on Friday.

Seven graduating members of WKU’s Hilltopper Batallion Army ROTC, their families and their friends gathered at 4 p.m. in the Mass Media and Technology Hall auditorium for the commissioning ceremony where they accepted their new positions in the U.S. Army.

One of those students was Nashville nursing student Meredith Hitt, now a Second Lieutenant and a member of the Nursing Corps.

“It’s such an honor, it’s a very proud moment — it feels really good,” Hitt said about the ceremony.

After a brief introduction and the playing of the national anthem, there were some opening remarks. Then the seven cadets took the commissioning oath in turn. Family members and loved ones pinned on their customary shoulder boards and army personnel presented the new Second Lieutenants with certificates and Hilltopper Batallion coins.

Hitt’s whole family, friends from nursing school and her fiancé Mason Myatt, a Glasgow senior, attended the event.

“She loves being able to help people that have done something for our country that a lot of people haven’t done,” Myatt said.

Myatt, also a nursing student, plans to graduate in May, wed Hitt on June 1 and begin work at a veteran’s hospital. Eventually, the couple hopes they will be able to work together.

The graduates will soon be traveling to Army bases across the U.S. to receive training in their selected fields. Hitt plans to leave for Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas on July 15.

Hitt was commissioned with Jerome Anderson, Jared Bridges, William Carter, Alicia Carver, Kenny Green and Joel Padgett, all of whom are now Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

Over in the Downing University Center auditorium, another group of graduates took part in a commencement ceremony Friday night. WKU’s Outstanding Black Graduates celebrated their impending graduation while honoring their heritage.

Veleashia Smith, assistant director of student development in the Office of Diversity Programming, said this celebration at the end of every semester is a rite of passage for African Americans.

“Our heritage is to celebrate, and it’s really something every graduate looks forward to,” she said.

Smith said this celebration is more personal than the university’s commencement ceremony.

“It allows, you know, all the mommas to shout for their babies as they walk and show how proud they are,” she said

As the graduates walked across the stage, they were draped with a Kente Cloth, which is a traditional cloth of prestige among African Americans and is reserved for special occasions. Howard Bailey, vice president of Student Affairs, presented the cloths to the graduates.

Martha Sales, director of WKU’s TRIO programs, told students to be armed with their diploma. TRIO is a set of programs that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree, according to their website.

“I want you to be armed and desirable, armed and determined, and lastly, armed and dedicated to your success,” she said. “I promise with those in mind, there will not be anything you can’t do.”

This celebration commemorated the first presentation of the Cheryl Williamson book scholarship, in memory of the WKU student who died a few weeks ago. The standards for the scholarship are qualities Williamson possessed, including resilience, motivation and believing.

The award was presented to Louisville senior Lydia Frempong.

New Albany senior Antoinette Taylor said she enjoyed the celebration.

“It was very inspiring,” she said. “It gives people hope.”