Rakea L. Joyner is the Bearer of the Mace for ECSU
December 19, 2012
Rakea L. Joyner was pleasantly surprised last week when she learned she would be the Bearer of the Mace at Elizabeth City State University’s Winter Commencement. The honor is bestowed upon the senior class, non-transfer student with the highest grade point average. Joyner’s goal was to graduate with honors and she worked diligently to reach it. Her 3.8 grade point average was higher than that of any senior in her class. She was delighted to hold the Mace as she led the procession of 184 students into the Robert L. Vaughan Center for ECSU’s 155th commencement on Dec. 15. It took her three and a half years to earn her undergraduate degree in criminal justice. She joins a cadre of alumni that includes her mother, brother, uncle and grandmother. She credits the presence of her family with helping her have a wonderful experience at ECSU. "I am glad I came here because I had an experience that you are not likely to have at a bigger school," said Joyner, who is from Elizabeth City. "The faculty care about you. They get to know the students because the classes are small," she said. "Here, I didn’t have to worry about the distractions that may come with studying at a school in a big city. Best of all, I could be near my grandmother and other family members." Because family members attended the university and shared their experiences, she felt right at home at ECSU. Brenda Joyner, her mother, also introduced her to other alumni. Joyner lived on campus in order to fully embrace the college lifestyle and to reach classes easily. Over the last year, she worked as a resident assistant at Viking Village and held a 20-hour-a-week job at McDonalds. Late at night or on weekends, she spent extra hours studying. Even with a busy schedule, Joyner participated in specialized programs at ECSU-she was a participant and later a mentor for new students participating in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), a National Science Foundation supported alliance of academic institutions that aim to increase the quality and quantity of students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs. It also aims to assist qualified students in pursuit of graduate degrees. Joyner also participated in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, a federally funded program at institutions of higher education designed to prepare disadvantaged undergraduate students for doctoral studies. She also found time to visit residents of Winslow Memorial Home with fellow church members at Freeway Tabernacle of Prayer for All People. Her faith has been an important part of her journey. "I thank God. He allowed me to matriculate through the years here," she said. "I came (to ECSU) for monetary reasons and I am glad to have saved money by studying here. I graduated from Northeastern High School, earned my degree in Elizabeth City but will leave to attend law school." For high school students who wonder if ECSU is the right university for them, she has good advice. "They will find good (academic) programs here, helpful faculty and staff, and a lot of independent help if you need it. There are great opportunities for you to get involved, join clubs related to your major," Joyner said. Joyner said her only regret is to leave ECSU knowing that other students will not have the privilege of participating in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. She participated during her senior year. The U. S. Department of Education recently decided to fund fewer institutions. ECSU offered the program for the last 18 years. She valued the program because it challenged students to complete research programs and enabled participants to visit the campuses of graduate and professional schools. Joyner said her next goal is to earn a law degree in order to help people obtain the legal representation they deserve.