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Ward encourages: ‘live the journey’
By Hannah Simpson
“I’m not a likely success story,” Francine Ward said while addressing 1,000 students and faculty Aug. 30 at the 2006 Convocation held in the Givens Performing Arts Center.
A drug addict at the age of 14, high school drop-out at 18, a former alcoholic and prostitute, Ward’s past reveals a life that held a seemingly bleak future.
Despite her troubled youth, Ward, 53, returned to finish her education 10 years after she left high school.
“Now, not only can I spell ‘dignity,’ but I can define it,” Ward said.
A successful motivational speaker, life coach and attorney, Ward used examples of experiences from her past to motivate students to overcome obstacles and make the best of the college experience. Her speech focused on six lessons that she had learned throughout her youth.“Some of the choices you make will impact you for the next four years,” Ward said.
The notion of giving
“I hope that you enjoy the next four years. Make friends, give back…and make it the most unbelievable phase of this journey,” Ward said.
Ward recalled a time when she met her biggest fear as a public speaker: freezing at the podium. She said that the experience was frightening, but she was otherwise unaffected.
“You won’t die from your fear,” Ward assured.
She said that fears of handling a course load, finding friends in a strange environment and fitting in to new surroundings were natural. She also insisted that it is important to not allow fears to stand in the way of living life to its fullest.
"Education is a privilege, not a right,” Ward declared. “I learned (this lesson) the hard way. Today it is something I value.”
Another lesson Ward learned is that “anything worth working for is worth having.”
She invited the students to make the best of the opportunities provided through UNC Pembroke and that each “phase” in life happens for a specific reason.
“You didn’t just stumble across Pembroke,” she told students. “There is a particular reason you are here today.”
Ward introduced the importance of not allowing challenges to discourage progress. It is important to not lose focus on the journey that leads to the goal, Ward said.
Live the journey
Ward expressed her desire for students to think about their goals and the motivation it will take to achieve them. A goal is just a destination; it is the experiences from the journey that define who we are, Ward said.
In his welcoming statement, Chancellor Allen C. Meadors thanked the faculty, board and staff for their service and attendance. He also offered a moment of silence in remembrance of the late Professor Travis Stockley, who died a week before in a car accident.
Sybil Bullard, chair of the Board of Trustees, also challenged the students to make the most of their experience at UNCP, and invited the freshmen back to GPAC in the year 2010 for their graduation ceremony.
“I am extremely honored to represent almost 250 faculty members of UNCP,” Dr. David Zeigler, chair of the Faculty Senate, said as he addressed the audience.
He said that it is important for students to take advantage of the educational opportunity presented by UNCP.
“We’re here, both students and faculty, to develop what we call a ‘culture of learning,’” Zeigler said.
Many people in the world desire but cannot attain a decent education, he said. He asked that the freshmen invest in their experience at the university.
Zeigler said that it was the job of the university to make students question their beliefs and their goals and help them to determine their beliefs.
“If you leave the university unchanged, we have failed,” he concluded.
Marvin Jacobs, president of the Student Government Association, offered greetings from the student body and reminded the audience that the SGA was created to be a voice for the students.
He briefly requested that the freshmen take advantage of the existence of the SGA, stating “We are here for you.”
Chancellor Meadors reported that UNCP gained 960 new freshmen for the fall semester, with 1,500 students new to the campus overall. He encouraged each of the students to take control of their education.
“We are here to provide guidance, help and to make you a success. But, it’s in your hands,” he said.
The 2006 Convocation was hosted by The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Leadership and Service.