Hundreds of graduates include a determined mom and her youngest son.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
It took Jenetta Lowery 33 years to earn her bachelor’s degree after several attempts. Something always stopped her, but at age 55 she got it done.
Lowery was determined not to quit and even urged her two sons – Justin, 26, and Jocori, 22, to do the same.
On May 11, she and Jocori were two of the 330 students bestowed degrees at Bethune-Cookman University’s spring commencement. Justin will graduate within a year.
“I went back after many years. I tried many times but something always came up. I decided in 2014 when my boys started, I wanted to do it. Words cannot explain how I feel,’’ she told the Daytona Times.
“It’s awesome to also walk with one of my children. I’ve always raised my kids to finish what they started. I couldn’t tell them without doing it myself.’’
‘A lifetime goal’
She earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies while Jocori’s bachelor’s is in criminal justice.
Jocori said receiving his degree was “a great accomplishment for me and a lifetime goal.’’
He added, “It gives me better opportunities in life, especially as an African-American. It’s more special and motivating doing it with mom. We pushed and supported each other.”
Took online courses
Lowery lives in Jacksonville, where she works full time as referral coordinator at the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute at Baptist Health, a health care provider in Northeast Florida. She and her husband, Keith Lowery, have been married for 33 years. She took classes online and had to adjust to technology. Her sons live in Daytona and went the traditional route of taking classes on campus.
“Working full time and being married to a minister is challenging. The hardest thing was adapting to the technology. When I was last in school, we didn’t have the internet, iPads, laptops, etc.,” she noted.
“Also, it’s more work online than in a classroom, which I didn’t have time to do. I had to discipline and stay on top of each assignment.”
A proud son
Jocori is proud of his mom’s accomplishment.
“She took off so many years from pursuing her degree. She sacrificed her college to take care of her family, especially raising me and my brother. I admire her and I’m proud. It’s great that she could go back and finish,” he said.
He also faced his own challenges finishing school, working several jobs like his older brother Justin, who will graduate within the year.
“I had plenty of challenges. I was distracted. I had peer pressure but was able to get back focused. I did at times lose sight of what I was doing in school, but I was able to make it through,” Jocori related.
Advice from Crump
During the May 11 morning commencement service that consisted of students from the School of Liberal Arts and School of Nursing, renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump encouraged the students to stand up and contribute to the nation and world.
“My mother always told me that life isn’t fair. Life is hard. If you don’t bring anything to the table, don’t expect anyone to let you sit at the table,” he told the graduates.
‘Best and brightest’
Crump assured graduates that they do bring something to the table.
“All of you represent the legacy of Dr. (Mary McLeod) Bethune who turned the city dump to a diamond mine which has produced those who have contributed to the world,” he remarked. “You are our best and brightest that we have to offer as a people to this nation and world.’
He stressed, “Do what is right. If we don’t stand up for our people, no one else will. You must be the ones who do this.”
‘A unique role’
During the afternoon graduation service, Johanna LeBlanc, a B-CU alum and U.S. State Department adviser, stressed the important role graduates must play in shaping the world.
“My travels around the world have shown me that the struggle to maintain democracy is a worldwide phenomenon. In a world with so much injustice, you have a unique role to play to ensuring the world is a better place for the next generation,” she told the graduates.