Jamaica 360[degrees] Sun Festival: 1st Annual College Graduation Celebration

By Eldridge, Alile C. | Diversity Employers, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Jamaica 360[degrees] Sun Festival: 1st Annual College Graduation Celebration


Eldridge, Alile C., Diversity Employers


Imagine yourself whisked away to a beautiful beach in Jamaica. You have just reached a major milestone in your life-you graduated from college. That was a reality for 100 recent college graduates who experienced the trip of a lifetime when they were rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to the Grand Lido Braco Resort in Jamaica. It initially appeared to be just a trip of a lifetime, but the trip quickly transcended--as planned--into an experience of enlightenment and transformation.

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On May 14th, 2007 students took part in an unprecedented effort to prepare young college graduates for the future. The 1st annual college graduation celebration "Jamaica 360[degrees] Sun Festival," was created by Xavier Artis, CEO of Recycling Inspiration (RI). The program was designed not only to celebrate the achievements of African American and other minority students, but also provide them with valuable social, professional and life skills they will need for continued success in the future.

Actor-comedian-social commentator "Professor" Eddie Griffin donated $150,000 to the occasion. "These graduates have defied the statistics in getting their degrees, and performing noteworthy community service along the way," said Griffin. "I had to reward them for their efforts and do what I could to prepare them for their role as future leaders." Griffin, who was fortunate to have the late master comedian/actor Richard Pryor as his mentor, sees underwriting such events as a way to pay it forward.

Students who attended the event were selected upon recommendation from their college or university or a mentor who recognized their outstanding leadership. The goal of the event was to reward students for their hard work and community service, and also to help them reflect on their lives--with a focus on the emotional, spiritual and financial needs of African American and minority students.

Many well-known celebrities and entrepreneurs were in attendance to make the event memorable. Essence Magazine editorial director, Susan L. Taylor; inspirational author and public relations guru Terrie M. Williams; hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh; Eddie Griffin and music artist Dana Dane and Ali Vegas all contributed their time and advice to the new graduates.

While students enjoyed the beach they also participated in relaxed forums. Listening to the personal testimonials and life stories from Williams, Griffin, Taylor, Fresh, and Dane provided students with lessons of empowerment and life-changing philosophies. "I've never seen so many friends come together as family," recording artist Vegas said. "It was an incredible experience."

"Help someone else and in turn, they help themselves," Williams said. The students were visibly moved by the panel discussions as tears flowed freely and tissue boxes were left empty. Williams, who shared her life story about her battle with depression, kept in the theme of giving back to push forward. Students, moved by Williams' candor, piled into lines to tell their own life stories. Following a panel discussion with Williams, students migrated to the beach for a direct-and-personal conversation with the public relations guru and author of the business best seller The Personal Touch. Williams never imagined the immense impact her testimony of overcoming depression would have on the crowd of college graduates, hotel attendees, members of the press, performers and business persons alike. The discussions were also opened to students from surrounding universities in Jamaica in an effort to foster cultural exchanges between American and Jamaican young adults.

Students not only enjoyed the beach and musical performances, they had a chance to reflect. …

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