Donovan Forrest, a senior education major, was selected this week to serve as Temple’s student commencement speaker for the Spring 2020 main campus commencement.
“The recent public health crisis has changed a lot of things for everyone, especially graduating seniors of academic institutions around the world,” Forrest wrote in an email to WHIP Radio. “While a lot has changed, I am encouraged that my academic journey doesn’t stop there but that these challenges are simply a stepping stone on what my academic career will entail. In addition, while graduation will be slightly different this year, the pride my friends and family feel towards my milestone hasn’t wavered and that keeps me positive.”
Forrest announced the news on his LinkedIn profile by sharing a screenshot of the congratulatory email he received from Provost JoAnne Epps on behalf of the Temple University Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee. Each semester, the committee selects a student commencement speaker through an audition and application process, and additionally evaluates factors like GPA, recommendations and applicants’ resumes.
One of the factors that set Forrest apart during this process was the scope of his accomplishments. These range from personal achievements like publishing his own memoir, to community-driven initiatives like the work of his non-profit organization DonCARES of Philadelphia, Inc.
Forrest wrote that his work with DonCARES of Philadelphia, Inc. particularly inspired his decision to apply for the student commencement speaker position. Founded in 2015, DonCARES of Philadelphia, Inc. provides local high school students with free tutoring and mentoring services in order to promote a positive approach to life, especially areas like education and professional development. Although it’s not a Temple-based student organization, all of the volunteer mentors are Temple undergraduate students of color.
“In my capacities as a non-profit executive, mentor, and undergraduate student, I saw the strength and potential as well as the accomplishments of my peers while they served as mentors, student organizational leaders and community advocates,” Forrest wrote. “In applying for Commencement Speaker, I wanted to encourage and celebrate my hardworking peers one last time before we became an alum of this illustrious institution.”
Temple announced on March 23 that the traditional on-campus ceremony for the 2020 spring commencement would be postponed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduating seniors will still earn their degrees on May 7 and university officials are exploring alternative ways to celebrate the occasion.
“Every student part of the Spring Class of 2020 from Temple University is a living testimony that perseverance conquers,” Forrest wrote. “As a commencement speaker, I undoubtedly urge my fellow owls to allow themselves to feel all of the appropriate emotions surrounding their circumstances but not to forget to be filled with pride and joy for each other, themselves and their unique accomplishments. So many people are proud of them, including me.”
By Amelia Winger