Elizabeth City, N.C. – In a packed house in the R.L. Vaughan Center, commencement speaker Antoine Bethea’s message to Elizabeth City State University’s (ECSU) Class of 2024 was a simple one – do not let the world change you, you change the world.

“You are about to walk into the real world, and you are going to have to fight. Be a change agent,” he said.

Bethea likened the real world to a boiling pot of water and explained that you can place things like a carrot and an egg in the boiling water and it changes those things – the carrot becomes soft, and the egg becomes hard. However, if you place a coffee bean in the water, the water changes.

“Be the coffee bean in the interview room. Be the coffee bean in the office, and in your community. Be that coffee bean,” he said.

The Class of 2024 boasts 241 undergraduates and 14 graduate students who are ready to be the coffee bean in their respective disciplines and communities. Of the graduates, nearly 40 percent fall into the category of honors graduates.

Among those graduates are this year’s Bearer of the Mace – Benjamin Parham – and the Bearers of the Shield – Brianne Ashley and Aron Stamper. To be named Bearer of the Mace, the graduate had to have entered ECSU as a first-time freshman and have the highest cumulative grade point average (GPA) in the graduating class. The Bearer of the Shield must have entered the university as a transfer student and have the highest cumulative GPA in the graduating class.

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