WATCH NOW: Claflin University graduate Kourtnee Glynn Manahan talks about the excitement of graduation

Kourtnee Glynn Manahan, a native of St. Louis, visited Claflin University a few years ago. She immediately knew it was where she wanted to spend the next four years of her life.

“I just wanted to be a part of a small-knit community and when I came to homecoming, I fell in love and wanted to be here ever since,” Manahan said.

On May 31 of this year, Manahan’s life took an unexpected turn.

“I was in a really bad car accident,” she said. “I got hit by an 18-wheeler, so to be here is truly a blessing.”

Despite the accident, Manahan joined her fellow graduates on Friday for the fall commencement convocation at Claflin University’s Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.

She walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in biology.

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“I am just overjoyed to make it to this day,” Manahan said. She plans to join the U.S. Air Force.

About 145 students received their diplomas. About 16 of them received their master’s degrees in business administration, education and science.

Newberry resident Quinten Trevias Kinard graduated with a major in business administration and minor in mass communications.

“I am pretty excited to graduate,” Kinard said.

He noted it was a challenge being a student-athlete who played on the university’s baseball team.

“You have to always have a schedule to keep that time balanced and you stay on track that was probably the main thing I had to deal with,” he said.

Now, “I am finally getting over the hump today. I am proud my parents and friends could be here to support me and watch me,” he said.

When Kinard graduates, he will begin working at his father’s insurance business: Kinard Insurance Group.

Claflin University President Dr. Dwaun Warmack congratulated the graduates during the ceremony.

“You have earned this degree,” Warmack said. “It is a tangible symbol of an outward recognition of the increased knowledge and skills that have become a part of you. Your diploma was well earned. Your degree can be a key to a rewarding future. This key can open up many doors.”

“The degree is just the beginning and not the end of anything,” Warmack continued. “Go out to do your best and show what it means to have Claflin confidence. Go tell the Claflin story.”

Warmack also encouraged the graduates to give back to their university through their financial support.

Warmack related three stories of students in the 2022 graduating class who overcame difficulties in their college journeys.

One student suffered two strokes and had to undergo physical therapy to recover.

“When her health improved, she was determined to finish her degree,” Warmack said. “She took online classes in January 2019.”

Faith Christine Johnson graduated with a grade point average of over 3.0 and majored in African and African American studies. She received a standing ovation when recognized.

Another student – Faithe Angelina Diamond Stallings – was placed in foster care at the age of 14.

Her dream was to enter the honors college, which she did. She graduated magna cum laude with a 3.83 GPA.

“The scholar had faith the size of a mustard seed,” Warmack said.

Another student – Shone Nairn Jr. – ended up graduating in 3-1/2 years with a 3.9 GPA. Nairn was the valedictorian of the class with a bachelor’s degree in math.

The Nassau, Bahamas native is looking to pursue his master’s degree in energy systems and sustainable development.

Nairn encouraged graduates to find their purpose.

“Purpose in my opinion shouldn’t be defined by the roles we play within society that can be given and taken away quite easily, but instead our sense of integrity, the way we treat others, our capacity to overcome and grow,” he said. “When the world shuts down, when life as we know it morphs into the days of old, we have to tap into our inner voice, that voice that constantly perceives the world around us and pushes us to actualize our potential.”

He challenged his colleagues to “root your purpose in things that make us whole as human beings: our self-care, family and friends, sense of spiritualty and liberation.”

“As you turn the next page into the next chapter in your life and the world seems bigger than you knew it to be, always remember to stay true to yourselves, question the assumptions about the way things are and make room to be all that you want to be,” Nairn said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, the interim executive director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College, encouraged graduates to not get involved in the social media drama of public figures such Kanye West and former two-sport star Deion Sanders.

He encouraged the graduates to know their roles.

“The first role for you is to block out the noise and commit to excellence,” Kimbrough said. “You’ve got to do the work. We can’t just keep posting and scrolling and wasting time and worrying about what Kayne is doing.

“Focus on what you need to do. Focus on being committed to excellence.”

Kimbrough also encouraged graduates to support Claflin.

“Your role is to use what you’ve got to advance this university,” Kimbrough said.

He encouraged the students to support the university financially, on social media and by encouraging others to attend.

“You have to take care of Claflin,” he said.

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