Project M.O.S.T. honors students at annual academic awards ceremony
By Project M.O.S.T. Staff
Scholarship, resilience, and service were celebrated at the 7th annual Men in Black Awards ceremony Feb. 8 at Farris Auditorium. Hosted by Project M.O.S.T., 109 awards were presented to members in recognition of their academic achievements and community service.
Fellow students, families, Tennessee Board of Regents representatives, faculty, staff and local supporters packed the auditorium for the yearly event spotlighting the hard work, commitment and passion of students to excel in higher education. Indeed, according to M.O.S.T., the awards’ name is symbolic of the black color in graduation gowns and the organization’s mission to change perceptions associated with men of color.
Project M.O.S.T. student Dakota Tucker opened the ceremony: “M.O.S.T. stretched me out of my comfort zone – it pushed me to go further in my studies and my way of thinking, and I found a good group of men to fellowship with.”
President Tracy D. Hall welcomed guests and thanked the honorees for being a shining example to other students and making Southwest and Memphis a better place. “Your accomplishments, your commitment to scholastic excellence, and your service to your fellow students and the community, lifts us all up.” Hall also thanked Project M.O.S.T. staff and faculty who worked diligently with the students. She said there has been a 78 percent retention rate since the program’s inception in 2012, and an 85 percent graduation rate this year. “Project M.O.S.T. is the most at Southwest,” she said.
Guest speakers included Senior Vice President and Corporate Counsel for Baptist Memorial Health Care System and Tennessee Board of Regents board member Greg Duckett, Vice President of Student Services Jacqueline Faulkner, Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration Michael Neal, and Special Assistant to the Vice President of Academic Affairs Sindy Abadie.
In his remarks, Duckett emphasized two essential qualities to succeed in life: image and sacrifice. “Remember that you are often judged by people before they get to know you,” said Duckett. “I have succeeded through hard work and discipline. Participating in this program and the sacrifices you make along the way will help your career advancement.”
Sam O’Bryant, Senior Director of Equity and Partnerships for SchoolSeed Foundation, was the keynote speaker. O’Bryant was selected an Emerging Scholar by the National Association of Multicultural Education. Before moving to the Mid-south, O’Bryant worked at the Clinton School of Public Service and led a $4 million federally-funded urban revitalization projected for Pulaski County Government. He is a graduate of several leadership programs including Leadership Memphis, was twice honored as a Top Forty Under Forty, and is currently pursuing a doctorate of education at the University of Memphis.
Speaking on the theme, “Elevating the Urge in the Intellect for Achievement and Success,” O’Bryant challenged M.O.S.T. members to “be the person you needed when you were younger.” He elaborated on the importance of giving back to the community and strongly encouraged males to become involved in the education system. He said by becoming teachers, “you will give young men someone to look up to, and you will be seen as much-needed, positive role models.”
In addition to the presentation of awards, M.O.S.T. scholar Paul Ramson and acoustic guitarist/instructor William H. Lang entertained the audience mid-way through the program with the song, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.”
Congratulations to all the Project M.O.S.T. faculty, staff, students and community award winners!
A total of 103 awards were presented to M.O.S.T. members: 19 students who achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA) received the Black Diamond Award and 65 students who achieved a GPA of 3.0 – 3.99 received the Award of Excellence. Additional awards were:
- Distinguished Senior Staff Award: Southwest President Dr. Tracy D. Hall
- Outstanding Faculty Teamwork Award: Debra Frazier, Adjunct Faculty, Business and Legal Studies
- Outstanding Supporter Award: Gregory Duckett
- GRIT Award (presented to individuals who persevered through difficult challenges) – David L. Lambert, Darren Rainer, and Chad Williams
- All-M.O.S.T. Award (Presented to an individual who embodies all that Project M.O.S.T. stands for) – Nigel Turner
Keynote speaker Sam O’Bryant addresses attendees of the 2019 Men in Black Awards ceremony
Project M.O.S.T. Counselor Sherman Robinson presents President Tracy D. Hall with the Distinguished Senior Staff award.
Robinson presents Greg Duckett with the Outstanding Supporter award.
Robinson presents Debra Frazier with the Outstanding Faculty Teamwork award.