By Donald Hunt
Jordyn Adams is trying to see the upside of graduating from college now — in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people are scared because you don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “This is an opportunity to make the best of the situation. Going into something unknown means that we can create whatever we want it to be. This is a time to kind of put ourselves out there and be trailblazers.”
And that’s part of the message the Lincoln University valedictorian will share this Saturday during “HBCU Day” on TheUndefeated.com.
Adams, 21, of Pittsburgh, is one of 22 “ambassadors” from HBCUs across the country who is expected to share a written or video message as part of HBCU Day.
TheUndefeated.com, which is owned by ESPN and focuses on the intersection of race, sports and culture, is hosting the virtual celebration for the graduates of historically Black colleges and universities who didn’t get to have traditional ceremonies and celebrations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The online celebration will feature a message from former President Barack Obama (scheduled to be posted at 1 p.m. Eastern time), as well as messages from Grammy Award-winning artist Toni Braxton, actor Omar Epps, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith and others.
Pia Deas, associate professor of English and Dean of Upperclassmen, chose Adams to represent Lincoln for HBCU Day.
“She has really worked so hard over the course of her four years,” Deas said.
Deas first met Adams when she was a freshman in Deas’ composition class.
“She was already a strong writer,” Deas said. “She went onto utilize her skills and basically demonstrated throughout her career her commitment to both Black life and Black experience.”
Adams showed a dedication to the advancement of scholarship of Black people when she served as a research assistant, co-wrote a scholarly article and enrolled in graduate school for the fall, Deas said.
Adams said she is “really excited” to participate in HBCU Day.
She recorded a short video, addressing her classmates as she might have if they’d had a traditional commencement ceremony. She said she made sure to share her optimism in the video because she wanted to give her fellow graduates “some hope and inspiration.”
Lincoln’s commencement ceremony originally was scheduled for May 3.
Adams said her classmates held a little celebration on Instagram, where they posted videos and shared memories. “It was so relieving,” she said.
Adams knew when she was in high school that she wanted to go to an HBCU.
“I was set on going to one of the bigger schools in North Carolina,” she said. “I applied to Lincoln solely because my mom wished she would have gone there when she was young, but she wasn’t able to. She said, ‘Jordyn, just apply. It’s in-state.’ I did and got a scholarship, and the rest is history. It’s destiny fulfilled. It’s the school my mom wanted me to graduate from.”
During her college career, Adams was president of the College Democrats, vice president of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society and a resident advisor.
Adams had made it a personal goal to graduate as Lincoln’s valedictorian, and considers it one of her biggest accomplishments.
“It’s still kind of surreal to be named valedictorian because I didn’t realize that it’s historic,” she said. “You’re always going to be your class valedictorian. When I went through my four years, it was a personal goal of mine to be the best I could. My nana had passed away the summer before I enrolled at Lincoln. It meant a lot to me to try my best and always honor her.”
Adams is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in psychology.
She plans to go on to graduate studies in media, identity and culture at the University of Cincinnati.
Donald Hunt is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.