RCC’s Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivers Student Commencement Address

{In song} They said I won’t make it; said I won’t be here today; said I’d never amount to anything; but I’m glad to say I made my way … and I’m graduating here again today.


RCC's Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivering 2019 Student Commencement Address

RCC’s Avis Hackett-Fortune Delivering 2019 Student Commencement Address

Good evening graduates, families, friends and faculty.

I am very delighted to be here at my second graduation tonight.

My name is Avis Hackett-Fortune. I am greatly appreciative to the faculty for asking me to speak tonight and share just a bit of my educational journey in hopes of giving someone a little more encouragement.

Going to college was my ambition after high school but neither my parents nor I, as a single parent, could afford it. I did not want to put my parents through the struggle of paying for my education because I had a great fear of failing.

Tonight, I would like to touch on the concepts of failure, perseverance and achievement.

Failure inevitably happens but it does not have to be the final outcome. As my grandmother always told me “nothing beats a failure but a try.” Every day I wake up with an expectation to accomplish something valuable to me; even if it’s only learning a new word, taking another course, or helping someone else make a positive difference in their life.

From 1976 until today, I have had many life experiences, which have hindered my abilities/opportunities to continue my education. There were many starting and stopping points where others thought I should give up.  My friends, family and even co-workers would always tease me about being the oldest person to graduate and ask me “why and how long was I going to go to school?” However, no matter what anyone said to me or about me, I refused to give in to failure!  I persevered!

Regarding my perseverance: When I started taking classes as a part-time student in 1976, there were no technological advancements like there are today. There were no online classes, scientific calculators, laptops, or blackboard. I actually had to carry a book bag with study books, pencils, pens and paper. I was ecstatic when online courses were introduced in 2000.

From 1988 to 1991, I worked full-time in Washington, DC, and took night classes at RCC.

From 1991 to 2014, I worked full-time in Dahlgren, taking both night and online classes. From 1976 to 2014, I have worked and taken courses at RCC and while taking these courses, I have raised 4 children, 13 grandchildren, and have cared for multiple family members, but I persevered!

Additional challenges arose, as the major requirements would change resulting in me having to retake classes, take additional classes that I did not need before, or changing my major. I persevered!

Furthermore, in 2014, while taking my final courses, I was involved in a car accident, which affected my short-term memory. We all know how hard it is to study without any type of brain issue but I persevered!

In the last 40 years, at the age of 56, with 228 credit hours, and seven different majors in addition 32 years full time work, raising my children and grand-children, I received my Arts and Science degree in Business Administration with a Certificate in General Education.

In 2018, while working part-time at RCC and taking care of my sick father and terminally ill aunt, I persevered in the completion of my Certificate of Accounting and proudly becoming a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

Education is the most powerful weapon we have. According to Webster’s Dictionary it is “the means of acquiring knowledge by learning.” To parallel education to breathing, breathing is a necessity to life. If you stop breathing, you die. If you stop learning, you will not succeed. Just like breathing, learning should be a fundamental instinct in life that we continuously practice and expand upon every day. Once you learn something no one can take it away. It’s essentially another means to surviving.  Every day I get up, I am breathing and I am learning. I am persevering!

You should always strive to educate yourself beyond the point of satisfaction in self-worth. If you are studying to be a nurse and you are graduating today as a CNA, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to study to become an LPN, RN or even a doctor.

If you are studying for, or have, a Business degree, rise to the next step of the ladder of success – become a business owner or the lender that can help others who are trying to succeed. If you studied the law to become a lawyer, maybe take the steps to become the next District or Supreme Court Judge. Don’t stop there, perhaps venture off into a different field.  Always take that extra step to greatness. Persevere!

People will always wonder about, discuss, have opinion about, and make suggestions on your life and your actions. I say be proud of who you are, don’t allow others’ perceptions of you effect your life decisions and choices. Get your education and be the best that you can be in whatever it is that you decide to do or become. Persevere!

As for my achievement, my degree has brought me to the most satisfying position I have ever held in 40 years as a Fiscal Specialist here at our Rappahannock Community College, advancing my financial career, allowing me to start my bookkeeping and advance my catering businesses.

I once heard someone say, “Life’s toughest storms only prove how strong your anchor really is!”  Do not settle with being whom or what someone else expects you to be, be who you want to be. Continue to Persevere!

While today may be your last day as a student at RCC, it is the beginning of a new chapter in life; the beginning of accomplishing new goals whether it be more school or the beginning of your career. Remember, failure should not be the final outcome!  It’s okay to fall just make sure you get back up and keep moving forward.  “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning, said Rich Dad Company founder, Robert Kiyosaki.” Persevere!

I want to let you know I left my aunt/godmother’s viewing to come here this evening and she came with me. I always will remember her telling me to be all I could be and never stop doing what makes me a better person. Always Persevere!

I would like to thank my fellow students, faculty, friends, family and most of all God for supporting me as I pursued my goals.

I would like to leave you with my grandmothers’ quote, “Nothing beats a failure but a try!” and as Janet Daily would put it, “Someday is not a day of the week”! So start today! Put in your applications for jobs, education, scholarship, whatever it is you want to achieve.

Continue to strive ahead!

Persevere for the award of achievement and Congratulations to the Class of 2019!