HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. – Saturday is a big day on the campus of Rust College in Holly Springs: graduation for the class of 2021. For the first time in year, graduates will walk across a stage.
Friday afternoon, 110 Rust College graduates rehearsed for graduation day. Najee El-Amin, a mass communications major, says even with social distancing and a limited number of family and friends present, graduation marks the end of an especially hard year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can barely contain our excitement to be honest,” El-Amin said. “We’re just ultimately ready. We’ve been working so hard four years, some people just a little bit more, but we’ve all had our different journeys, and now we’re all converging together to accomplish that mission.”
The ceremony was initially planned for outside Saturday on the lawn in front of the Rust College administration building. But a threat of rain forced college officials to move the event into the school’s gymnasium.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever be exactly how we were pre-COVID, but to be able to celebrate our graduates with their family and friends like this is a step in the right direction. Because last year we had a virtual commencement,” said Dr. Ivy Taylor, president of Rust College.
Temperatures will be taken at the door and face coverings will be required. It’s a small inconvenience for Vincent Pride, who says he has the pandemic to thank for graduating. After leaving Rust in 1993 to pursue his career in sports broadcasting, Pride was able to finish his education after rust started offering online courses.
He knows he’ll be the oldest student graduating Saturday, but he thinks he can offer some sage advice to his younger colleagues.
“You have to be able to sell yourself a little harder,” Pride said. “Those aspects and those little bitty things that you contribute, and those little bitty things that you have in terms of what ‘makes you you’, you will have to multiply that times two.”
Commencement will be at 11 a.m. in the McMillan Multi-Purpose Building on the Rust campus. There will be an overflow building where the event will be live streamed.