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May 20, 2019 - 12:55pm

Photos: GCC graduates its 51st class

posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, news.

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Alannah Gross accepts her diploma from Donna Ferry, chair of the Board of Trustees of Genesee Community College, during GCC's 51st commencement ceremony Sunday inside the Call Arena.

Earlier, Gross sang "God Bless America" during the opening of the ceremony (photos below).

This year's keynote speaker was Lesli Myers-Small, superintendent of Brockport Central School District and author of "Life's Leadership Lessons," a Ted-X speaker, an NYS Woman of Distinction, who has gained a degree of fame for her rap videos for students in her district. 

A key theme of her commencement speech came from the musical "Hamilton" and the song "I'm am not throwing away my shot."

I am not throwing away my shot
I am not throwing away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot

Myers-Small recalled the day in May 2012 when she pulled into the parking lot of Brockport Central School District for her interview for the superintendent's job. She remembered that she was trying to do something as an African-American woman that nobody in Monroe County had ever done before.

"Doubt, fear, and anxiety reverberated in mind," Myers-Small. "I thought it absolutely impossible. I will never become the chief executive officer of a public school district."

But she didn't leave. She sat in her car a moment and thought. She remembered all the people who had paved a way for her, and those who had raised her and mentored her and guided her and prepared her for this moment. 

"I heard a quiet still voice, 'girl, either go hard or go home.' "

Myers-Small told the students no matter who they are, where they come from, whatever hardships they might face, don't quit.

"When contemplating opportunities, remember that what is possible for me is possible for you. I cannot, will not, did not throw away my shot."

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Lesli Myers-Small

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