11 months ago
Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts awarded diplomas to 93 seniors during its 18th commencement ceremony on May 26. This year’s seniors received acceptances to 85 colleges and universities and more than $10 million in scholarship offers. Eighty-five percent of the graduates chose to continue their educations at colleges in Arkansas.
Senior Denzel Washington sang the National Anthem. Student Government Association Annie Wang and Senior Class Representative Kate Trubitt addressed their classmates during the ceremony held at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
ASMSA welcomed back James McKinney, a 2007 ASMSA graduate from Forrest City, to deliver the commencement address.
“What you’ve earned today has been hard and is well-deserved, but to answer the question you’re all wondering: college will be harder, the competition will be stiffer, the pace will get faster, but the good news is: that you’re all prepared.”
McKinney served as the Student Government Association president during his senior year at ASMSA and shared the stage with Bill Clinton when the former president delivered the commencement address in 2007. Bill and Hillary Clinton are credited with the idea of founding ASMSA as a way to offer an advanced education for high school juniors and seniors who excel in the study of science and math and to increase the number of Arkansans who receive college degrees and who can contribute to the state’s economic development.
McKinney encouraged the ASMSA students to give back to their alma mater as well. “I would encourage each of you to keep the promise and legacy of ASMSA alive by giving back: whether that’s participating as an active alum, evangelizing your experience to young people entering their junior year, or supporting the ASMSA Foundation when you are leading a successful career – it’s so critical that we give back.”
McKinney is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois-Chicago Reserves Officer Training Corps Program and will commission as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Field Artillery Branch.
He said the military likes its acronyms such at P.T. and NCOs, and he gave the ASMSA graduates another acronym to remember – BRAT.
“We’ve all seen brats before. They kick, they beg, they cry. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. “I submit to you today, that there’s nothing wrong with being a brat – kicking, begging and crying; if it is for the right reasons. That is, I don’t want you to just be any kind of brat, but be a brat – for your dreams.”
He then gave meaning to the BRAT acronym: B (begin with the end in mind); R (risk vulnerability on the journey ahead); A (act boldly and with heart), T (teach – the single greatest act of teaching is giving.)
“B-R-A-T. In sum, good brats figure out what they want to achieve and then invest the hours of their days in activities consistent with their goals – they get up every day and run after their goals with heart,” he said. “On the road ahead, the risks will be big, the fight will be tough, but because you are smart enough to earn your place on this graduation day at ASMSA, when the tough moments arise, I have not doubt you will prevail.”
McKinney, the son of Paula McKinney of Forrest City, is completing his master’s work at the University of Chicago’s Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy. Since graduating from ASMSA, he wrote for TIME Magazine while following the 2008 presidential election and worked alongside the special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals to draft a poverty alleviation initiative for Louisiana. He worked on several development projects with community organizations in the Arkansas Delta as an intern for the William Jefferson Clinton School of Public Service. In 2010, he was also named a Drum Major Institute Student Scholar.