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A 2nd Generation NCCC Member Leaves His Mark

February 22, 2013

As part of Black History Month, we’ll be sharing inspiring stories from Black and African American alumni of AmeriCorps throughout February. Today’s post originally appeared on the AmeriCorps NCCC Blog on February 20, 2013.

Keivon Henderson shares his inspiring Class 18 graduation speech.

Two generations of NCCC: Class 18 NCCC member, Keivon, with his father, a Class 2 NCCC member, at Keivon's graduation in Vinton, IA.

Two generations of NCCC: Class 18 NCCC member, Keivon, with his father, a Class 2 NCCC member, at Keivon’s graduation in Vinton, IA.

Class 18, I want to start by telling a little about myself. I was that one kid that would walk around with the big black head phones blasting his music to tone out all other life. I was that kid you would never see at any campus activities unless they were mandatory. I was that corps member that you would have to force to get a simple “hi” out of. Now, the whole reason I say this is because, I’m now standing tall, talking loud and proud at my…our graduation.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a great way to see what you are really made of, to see who you can and will become. The NCCC experience can quickly pull out your doubts and your fears, put them together, and force you to face them. It has the ability to make you face all those doubts and fears to ultimately better yourself for what is to come, and for what you are to become later in life. I say this with no doubts because NCCC has done it to me and I am sure to many of you.

When I first joined NCCC, talking at the graduation was the very last thing on my mind, because public speaking was a fear of mine, but hey- look at me now! When I first joined NCCC all I could think about was going home, quitting for fear of the unknown. Of course, I assumed more then I actually knew: I assumed I wasn’t going to like the program, I assumed it was going to be a waste of my time. But hey- look at me now! Here I stand in front of you at our graduation, and when I look in to the crowd I see our future, the men and women who will take the places of important people that make our world work.

Look at us now! Class 18! We made it. We have overcome mountains of adversity and persevered through it all. We have been pushed to our breaking points and far, far past. We have figured out how to get along with people with very different personalities and backgrounds, navigating life alongside their weird habits, with all types of attitudes, and together we’ve helped a whole lot of other people in the process. We have been separated from loved ones for ten months, so far away from them, but class 18 -we still stood tall and strong through it all, and we made it!

Class 18, chase your dreams. Live your life to the fullest. Have no regrets, remember to treat people the way you want to be treated, remember that if you want to change your life you have to be willing to take a risk, you have to be willing to step out of your square of comfort and embrace the unknown. The unknown can bring so much change to your life, good and bad. You can’t control the unknown, but you do have a say in is the type of unknown you allow in your in to your life. So class 18, I leave you with this, a quote from a counselor on my first round project, words that he spoke at an at-risk youth program’s graduation: “May you live life as long as you want, and not want as long as you live.” Congratulations class 18 – we all made it. Enjoy your graduation, enjoy your lives.

Keivon Henderson

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