A D.C. public education policy leader pushed students graduating from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development to break out of their confines to overcome setbacks.
De’Shawn Wright, the deputy major of education for Mayor Vincent Gray, spoke to the school’s graduates Saturday about overcoming adversity to achieve success others may not have always expected.
“Never confine yourself to someone’s rules or limitations,” Wright said. “Wake up every day on fire. Be bold, act now.”
Wright reflected on difficult moments in his life, some stemming from growing up with one arm, at the school’s ceremony in the Smith Center.
He challenged graduates to get creative when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
“What distinguishes some from others is their willingness to be bold in the face of adversity,” he added.
Wright has been involved in public education for more than a decade, starting out as a middle school teacher for Teach For America.
A student speaker, Abisola Okanlawon, took the stage after Wright, echoing his calls for students to be forward-thinking and take risks.
“[GSEHD] has given me the fortitude to move boldly and confidently, knowing that success is in my hands,” says Abisola, who earned a degree in clinical mental health counseling.
Abisola then asked the entire graduating class to all clear their throats together, telling graduates they should never be afraid to speak up.
“We’ve already done the hardest part, now it’s time for action,” Abisola said. “Thanks in advance for changing the face of this world.”
Throughout the ceremony, students from GSEHD’s partner institution on campus, the School Without Walls, performed jazz music.
Patricia Sasser, who received her master’s in educational leadership, carried her son across the stage to earn her diploma.
“As a full time student and a full time mom, it definitely feels good to be done,” Sasser said.