Jovian Zayne shared her personal story of beating the odds and becoming an international public speaker with UNC Pembroke’s Class of 2023.
“I was sitting where you are sitting just a few years ago with so many hopes, dreams, questions, ideas, concerns and pressures,” said Zayne, keynote speaker at First-Year Student Convocation on Monday.
The ceremony, which marks the beginning of their academic journey, was attended by Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, other university leaders, staff and faculty dressed in regalia in support of the newest members of the student body.
Zayne recited a story of a young girl who was discouraged by her high school guidance counselor and struggled during her first semester in college. The young girl didn’t give up. She persisted, earning a spot on the Dean’s List and being the first African American woman to be elected student body president at UNC Chapel Hill.
“She persisted until she ran her own business and now she travels the country, speaking to people about purpose. She connects with CEOs and coaches and executives from Google and Goldman Sachs and now she is on stage talking to you at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“I hope you have the resilience that this young girl had.”
Zayne leads the OnPurpose Movement, a firm committed to helping organizations and individuals to “live and work on purpose,” through targeted coaching, public speaking and facilitation experiences. Her work has been featured in NPR, Facebook Watch, The Huffington Post and Essence Magazine.
During her talk, she interacted with the fresh-faced audience, slapping high fives with students seated on the front row inside the Givens Performing Arts Center. At one point, she asked them to stand and name one thing they are responsible for over the next four years.
One student yelled, “to make change.” Another responded, “walk across that stage.” A third student said, “to learn and grow as a person.”
Zayne told the first-year students their soul responsibility is to learn.
“You are going to learn a lot by accident. You are going to make mistakes. But you are not your mistakes.
“Each of you has the power to unlock the necessary resilience that keeps you going. For every class to every paper, for every club, for everything you want to explore while you are here …. be persistent and be brave!”
Nancy Lopez Aguirre attended Convocation with her friend Damondre Wells. They both live in Wallace, N.C.
“This is a big dream for me,” Aguirre said. “I am the first in my family to come to college. I’m majoring in elementary education which is a personal passion for me because I will get to help my community in the same way it helped me.”
Canon Boone, a business major from Huntersville, was pumped while looking ahead to the next four years at UNCP.
“I’m excited! I want to either teach or start a business as an entrepreneur.”
Hannah Oxendine of Lumberton hasn’t declared a major, but is considering a career working with children.
“I am leaning toward anything in the health care field, teaching kindergarten, working for a childcare provider or counseling.”
Phillip Smith of Jacksonville is eager to jumpstart a career in broadcasting.
“I am excited about getting set in my career path. It was quite a journey figuring out exactly what I wanted to study because I had so many things pulling me in different directions, but I think I’ve found it.”