To become great in this world it takes a great deal. It takes you coming to an understanding that you want to improve every single day. That you have family that is behind you 100 percent and will never let you waiver from what you need to become. More than anything else, you need to have friends that see you more than just someone that you can have fun with, talk to and enjoy their company. You need to have friends that will push you and make you believe that working hard, having solid communication, listening to them when they talk to you about something important on their mind, is how you build a solid foundation that will last a lifetime.
Last weekend, I had a chance to catch with some very special classmates at Howard University’s 2008 Homecoming, my third as a graduate of that Institution of higher learning.
We all had a chance to catch up and discuss what has been going on in our lives since we last saw each other. Some of my former classmates and peers I have not seen in over a year. Others I have not seen in nearly two years. When you have been away from each other that long, you hope that the solid connection you have developed in the time you were in school together is still there. Thankfully for me it was for a number of my peers.
To say that I was truly happy to see my friends that I have made a special connection with from the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2005 is an understatement. It was a true to talk with all of them and find out how things have been going for them. Some are in the workforce and are doing very well. Their work ranges from being on Wall Street to working for non-profit organizations. Others are in graduate school or law school. One of my closet friends and the former editor of the Howard University student newspaper “The Hilltop” Josef Sawyer is now working behind the scenes Fox’s America’s Most Wanted. One of my former track and field teammates Leon Snyder is now married and I had a chance to meet his wife at Homecoming on Friday. She was very cool. He without question made a great choice in who he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
The one person I really enjoyed seeing was my one of my other former teammates Lance Gross. He currently is on Tyler Perry’s show House of Payne where he plays the part of Calvin Payne. Last summer he was in Tyler Perry’s film “Meet the Browns.” It was good to see him. He looked great and Hollywood definitely has not changed him. He even introduced me to someone who I have seen on television many times back in the day. Last Saturday, Lance introduced me to Keisha Knight Pulliam, who stars as his characters mate Miranda on “House of Payne,” and who we all remember as Rudy Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” I even got a chance to make a picture with her. It does not get any better than that.
What made this Homecoming very special in being around my former peers is that the respect and admiration that we have for one another in the points that we find ourselves in right now. For some that might where they want to be and for those like myself that are still striving to reach that place of greatness, we all took the time to show our respect for where we all are. It can be very easy for one to bask in the joy of their success and frown down on someone else who has not reach the pinnacle of where they want to be. That is one thing that we all at HU, particularly the edition that I graduated with three years ago, never will allow.
We all have an understanding as former students, but also as people who have come very far from where we were six years ago, that life, especially now is not going to be easy. We all to man have worked very hard to be at the point where we can see each other at an occasion that was very special to us as students and is now even more special as alumni of one of the most historic university’s in the United States of America.
What made my peers at HU special to me is that I was able to be myself and I did not have to change anything about who I was, what I stood for or what I represented in order to fit in. In being around them, I knew and understood that if I was going to make it, I had to come with a never back down, bring your hard hat, be focused and never be satisfied attitude to the table every day and never take anything for granted.
That really hit home for me when my friend Jason Johnson from Texas told me that our good friend Aaron Bonner from Cincinnati, Ohio had passed away. You want to talk about a down moment that was one for me. Aaron was a freshmen when I first met him back in 2002. He was someone I greatly admired because he was someone that was the true definition of cool. He worked very hard in school. He always had a smile on his face. He had two very good friends in Jason and Andre Levy who along with Bonner were a part of the Howard University Campus Pals for three years. What I will miss about Aaron the most is the approach he had to life. He worked hard at his studies each and every single day, but he always managed to enjoy those around him as well as the journey he took each day in the game of life.
It is because of that commitment, I became a great student that graduated Cum Laude in 2005, in the largest graduating class in Howard University history, I was a major part in several student organizations, I was a solid writer for “The Hilltop” and more than anything, I earned the respect of my classmates who refer to me as the “Living Legend” of Howard.
It is that respect that also allows a close friend like David Borrego to let you crash with him and his brother Carlos at their home during Homecoming. You do not get that opportunity unless you show that person during your time as classmates at HU the respect of being a good friend.
That is why when we do see one another at occasions like these, we take lots of pictures, have in-depth conversations about what we are doing. For myself, I do not hide the fact that I do work for the Town of Hempstead’s Parks and Recreation Department. I mentioned that to all my classmates about what I do in Baldwin Park as well as writing this blog for a special education school that I attended when it was in its first inception back in the early 1980s.
On top of sharing what we are doing in our lives at Homecoming, we party. On Friday night, I and my peers partied at the nightclub called “LOVE.” All I can say is it was fun. We were all dressed up very nice. We danced into the night. It was special. It was something that brought me back to my time as an undergrad where after we worked hard during the week in school, we took time to have some responsible, get down fun.
Then on Saturday, the fun continued when I got a chance to attend the HU Alumni Boat Ride out by the Washington Harbor. There is nothing better then getting out on a boat where you dance to music, have fine food and can enjoy the company of some very cool people.
This was one of those weekends that I will remember for a long time. Why you say? Because it allowed me to look back and see where I came from. When I first got to HU after I graduated from Nassau Community College, I was just someone trying to make a name for himself and graduate and make my parents proud of me. I accomplished all of that and them some.
In this life you are going to have the chance to build friendships with some special individuals. People who without you knowing it, make you better than you ever felt possible. They will challenge you, make you look deep within yourself and bring the best out of you. It is up to you to maintain those special friendships, because you never know in life when you are going to need that person for anything.
I have gone to HU’s Homecoming as former student for three years and each year it has gotten better and all of my former peers have risen to new heights from their careers, to getting married to some even having children. It is moments like this that make life special. I only hope in the years to come there are more special moments that we all can share at future HU Homecomings and other reunions.