2020 Virtual Salute to Excellence

The Salute to Excellence graduation ceremony is about more than just getting a degree. This ceremony recognizes the hard work, perseverance and dedication of the scholar along with the tremendous support, care and love from those who helped guide the scholar on their path to graduation.

“We at the Center for Academic Success & Excellence have been honored to accompany you on your journey throughout your time here at Mizzou,” Ms. Devara Brock, Student Service Coordinator at CASE said.

As a CASE Scholar, the Salute to Excellence graduation ceremony is one many look forward to every year.

“It is the last hoorah for students of color to come together and have their own celebration and see the accomplishments of the peers they have spent so much time with over their last 4 years,” CASE Scholar class of 2020, Jayme Henderson said.

While this year’s ceremony looked a lot different as it took place virtually, there was no loss of sentiment. The love and pride everyone has for the scholars transcended the zoom call. There were 57 participants celebrating the scholars, consisting of CASE staff, CASE scholars and family members.

Director of CASE, Dr. Andre Thorn began the ceremony with some opening remarks, expressing his pride in the scholars and parents.

“I want to say congratulations and just how proud we are, not just of the graduates, we’re proud of them too,” Dr. Thorn said. “We’re proud of those parents who have prayed so much for these scholars, for their babies. We’re here to congratulate, to celebrate and to acknowledge the individual and collective achievements of the newest class of MU graduates.”

Following Dr. Thorn, CASE Student Service Coordinator, Karen Hayes offered a toast to the graduating class.

“CASE has been grateful to witness your success in earning your Mizzou degree,” Hayes said. “We have marveled at your ability to make your scholarship work here at Mizzou. Congratulations, I salute each of you for proving excellence is in every zip code. Let’s toast to your success!”

After the heartfelt toast, Ms. Brock began the recognition portion of the ceremony. She provided a slideshow highlighting each graduating scholar, giving those on the call a chance to speak and share their post-graduation plans.

Henderson, a Brooks Scholar, who is receiving her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing hopes to become a labor and delivery nurse in Chicago.

“[CASE] has given me confidence and a sense of pride being a Black student at Mizzou,” said “I am happy to say that CASE is one of those entities that contributed to my growth and development.”

Next, Ms. Brock opened up the floor to the faculty to give words of recognition or praise to the graduates.

Hayes shared a quote from scholar Elijah Brown that inspired her, “Once you find your stride, nothing will knock you off.” Hayes loved being able to witness Brown live out that quote.

While people were talking on zoom, some were busy typing in the chat box, including Brown.

“I feel such a great sadness right now, but I am incredibly grateful for all CASE has provided for me,” Brown said. “I’ll do my best to make you all proud.”

“Elijah, we are honored to know you and be a part of your journey,” Justin Light, Student Service Coordinator at CASE said. “CASE is so very thankful for all the memories you have created and shared with us. And that goes to all the Grads. We at CASE are so very thankful for getting to know you and see your incredible talents. Good luck and congrats!”

As the event began to wrap up, Dr. Jim Spain, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies and eLearning was invited to speak. In a full-circle moment, he talked about the pride in the parents. He shared a personal story about dropping his daughter off at a babysitter and although he was sad, he was able to pick her up at the end of the day. Dr. Spain compared this experience to the scholar’s parents dropping their kids off at MU but knowing they can’t pick them up at the end of the day.

“To the families, thank you, thank you for trusting us,” Dr. Spain said. “We know that when families bring their students and leave them here at Mizzou, you leave them with us and you trust us and we hope that we’ve honored your trust.”

Dr. Spain concluded by reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem What is Success?

The ceremony was then formally concluded with Ms. Brock’s friend Rochara Knight singing a beautiful rendition of “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Scholars waved goodbye, then signed off the zoom call.

“I thank CASE for their support, love and genuine care over the last 4.5 years,” Henderson said. “Students feel special, loved and seen. Thank you CASE!”