PEMBROKE — Renowned motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles reassured the first-year students in attendance that ‘there is a place for you here’ at UNC Pembroke.
At this stage in their academic journey, Sprinkles said some first-year students might be second-guessing their decision to enroll in college.
“You belong here!” Sprinkles shouted, his booming voice echoing throughout Givens Performing Arts Center. “There is a place for you here. You with your tattoos. You with your dreads. You with the skinny jeans or the indie style. And if you can’t find a place, maybe it’s because you were put here to create a place.”
Sprinkles’ talk energized the auditorium full of fresh-faced students on the eve of the start of the new academic year. Sprinkles served as keynote speaker at First-Year Student Convocation on Monday.
This year’s freshman class was treated to several UNCP traditions, including convocation, which officially marks the start of the academic year. On Saturday, students took part in Brave Walk, the traditional walk over Jones Bridge, before gathering for their class picture. Classes began today.
Sprinkles told the students to challenge themselves as Florence Chadwick did in 1952 when she attempted to swim 26 miles from Catalina Island and the California coastline. After about 15 hours, a thick fog set in. Chadwick began to doubt her ability and eventually gave up. She later realized she stopped one mile away from her destination. Two months later, she tried again. The same thick fog set in, but she succeeded.
“When you hit your fog, forget about what you see. Think about those people who you want to make proud.”
He asked students to step outside of their comfort zone because that’s where all growth happens. At one point, he acknowledged first-generation students in the audience.
“I respect all of your journeys. Whether you are considered a legacy student or the new legacy of your family, some of you might be the first one to go to school, but because of you, you won’t be the last in your family to go to school.”
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings joined other platform guests, encouraging students to become engaged in student life through service-learning, internships, research and study abroad or join one of the more than 100 clubs and organizations.
“Take advantage of these great opportunities to learn who you are, to meet new friends and to learn about the world because they will all make a difference at the end of your journey,” Cummings said.
Dayanara Portela and Melany Fernandez Lopez are both from the Shannon community and have known each other since middle school. They hope to expand their circle of friends during their time at UNCP. They both plan to enroll in the nursing program.
Portela wants to become a nurse practitioner and later pursue a graduate degree at UNCP.
“I chose nursing because I love helping others, and I feel like I can share the knowledge I gain with so many other people who don’t have the advantage of having health care,” Lopez said.
Freshman Cyle Addison came to UNCP to study biology in hopes of becoming a pediatrician. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Addison is looking forward to adapting to a new environment.
“I want to be the first one in my family to graduate college and to become a doctor,” he said.
Sheridan Rice of Lumberton hasn’t decided her career path, though she’s leaning toward psychology. She also enrolled in a career development course.
“I’m looking forward to making new friends, and I think this new career development class will help me decide what I want to do,” Rice said.