Taylor A. Landon-Luckett and Tre' Jeter are among the Class of 2021 graduates who will participate in Claflin’s in-person Spring 2021 Commencement Convocation on Saturday April 24, at 11 a.m., at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex. The ceremony was originally planned as an outdoor event at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds, however, it was moved inside due to the threat of inclement weather predicted for Saturday.
Members of the Class of 2020 have been invited to take the “ceremonial” walk across the stage this year – a time honored ritual they missed when Claflin’s Spring 2020 ceremony was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. This event begins at 8 a.m. in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex.
“I'm excited about the in-person commencement,” said Landon-Luckett, an accounting major from Milwaukee, WI. “As a graduate you look forward to walking across the stage and making your family proud. My mom, dad, and, grandmother will be there. My degree is testimony that all of my hard work paid off.”
Landon-Luckett transferred to Claflin after attending a small private school in Illinois.
“When I decided to transfer to an HBCU, I went online to see what schools had nationally-ranked business programs. I saw that Claflin was ranked among the Top 10 HBCUs and the University’s School of Business was a Top 10 program as well. I submitted my application and now I am a graduating senior.”
When asked what she would tell prospective students who were considering Claflin as a place to continue their education, Landon-Luckett responded without hesitation – “It’s a family atmosphere and I recommend it highly,” she said. “You hear it a lot – but it’s true. From finding me a room when I first arrived, receiving a scholarship, and being mentored about life and career opportunities by my professors – it has been a great experience.”
The disruption caused by COVID-19 sparked a myriad of behavioral, emotional, and social issues on college campuses across the nation. However, it also provided students like Landon-Luckett an opportunity to recognize the importance of mental health.
“It’s difficult to handle your academic responsibilities if you are experiencing mental health issues,” she said. “It was shocking to leave campus for Spring Break and not return. It was difficult not being on campus. I was participating in virtual classes, but it was like I was still on Spring Break. Several professors reached out and asked how I was feeling -- especially when they did not see my face during our virtual classes. They also asked about my family. The mental health services Claflin provided were amazing. I had a therapist I could talk to and it was very helpful.”
Landon-Luckett, who will graduate with a 3.71 GPA (grade point average), is a member of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Financial Literacy and Investment Club of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She has accepted a position with Ernst and Young, one of the world’s largest accounting and professional services networks. Landon-Luckett will work as an auditor with the prestigious Fortune 500 company.
“I believe Claflin University has prepared me for future success and I'm ready to take my talents and knowledge into the corporate world,” she said.
Jeter will graduate with a 3.78 GPA and a double major in computer science and computer engineering (cybersecurity). He has been accepted in the McKnight Doctoral Program at the University of Florida where he will earn a Ph.D. in computer science with an emphasis on blockchain technology – an incorruptible platform that stores and secures digital transactions for cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin.
Jeter said that blockchains are a relatively new technology that will continue to evolve.
“I plan to conduct research in this industry, earn a doctorate, and learn as much as I can about this and similar technologies.”
Jeter said he understands why the most recent commencements were held virtually due to the COVID-19. But he does not believe the virtual ceremonies adequately acknowledge the achievements or the sacrifices students have made to earn their degrees.
“I am looking forward to walking across the stage with my classmates,” Jeter said. "I am really excited about this year’s commencement.”
Prior to enrolling at Claflin, Jeter earned college credit while taking classes in the University’s HBCU Up Program, a summer program for high-performing high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students.
“I wanted to attend a historically black college/university (HBCU) – and Claflin is the No.1 HBCU in South Carolina,” said the Spartanburg, S.C., native looking back at when he arrived at Claflin. “I automatically felt the family atmosphere,” he said. “It felt like home.”
Jeter’s academic, athletic, and leadership abilities have been on full display at Claflin. He is a member of the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College and served as president of the Omicron Alpha Beta Chapter of Phi Beta Lambda Incorporated, Alpha Beta Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society; and Polemarch of the Gamma Nu Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated. Jeter also finished fourth in the heptathlon at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) 2020 Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Like other students at Claflin, COVID-19 provided Jeter with a host of unexpected challenges. However, as a former track standout in high school and current member of Claflin’s track program, facing and overcoming hurdles was nothing new.
“My biggest problem at first was time management, “said Jeter who earned all-county and all-region
honors in the 400 and 110 meter hurdles at Spartanburg High School. He was an all-state qualifier in the
400m hurdles. “Although the classes are virtual, the times are the same and you have to treat it like a normal class situation. I later realized that I had more time to prepare for class.”