Student commencement speaker found opportunities, dreams at Indiana State

May 1 2008

After finishing high school, Brandon Skates faced an uncertain future but found new opportunities and dreams at Indiana State University.

His most recent accomplishment was being selected as the student speaker for the 2008 spring commencement ceremony, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday (May 3) at Hulman Center.

“I’m a poor kid from Greencastle,” Skates said about himself while reflecting on how he came to be where he is today. “I … really didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life.”

A guidance counselor at Skates’ high school took an interest in him and helped him. Skates explained that he was given books and descriptions about colleges, majors and careers paths. Then the guidance counselor told him needed to come to a decision about the next step in his life before he left the Greencastle High School hallways for good.

Skates declared that he wanted to help others with similar circumstances to his own. He wanted to give support to those in need, give them a voice and to help them find the tools and resources needed to succeed. Skates decided to become a social worker.

He didn’t start out at ISU, but after spending his first year at Vincennes University, he decided to transfer to be closer to his grandparents and for the challenge he knew ISU would bring.

While at ISU, Skates became involved with the Student Social Work Association, Phi Alpha Honor Society and declared psychology as his minor. Although Skates has been busy while at ISU, he did find time to venture off campus once or twice. In fact, his first trip outside the United States happened during a visit to Morocco during spring break in 2007.

“My mom was a single parent, so we were never even able to take family vacations,” Skates said. “Getting the chance to actually go across the ocean to another country was amazing.”

Skates’ Moroccan adventure was taken as an ambassador of goodwill with his department of social work colleagues.

“I learned from this trip that I can relate to people from other cultures: it’s something I’m good at and that I want to pursue,” Skates said. “Being African-American, I was especially excited at the opportunity to visit Africa and experience it, and I think I might like to go back and be an international social worker.”

But for now, Skates has decided to attend Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis starting in August. It had been his intention to help others through social work, and now he says with a law degree he will be able to help people in a more influential way.

At graduation Saturday, Skates wants to deliver a speech that will touch all of his classmates.

“I am inspired by my generation,” Skates said. “People our age are taking responsibility and we are being called to use our power, we just need to recognize what we’re capable of. “

Skates explained that he wanted to be the commencement speaker because he didn’t want his graduating class to listen to a triple major that didn’t connect with everyone. ”I’ve always told myself, that if I ever have the opportunity to [give the commencement speech] that I would like to reach the entire crowd sitting in the seats, not everyone is valedictorian.”

His opportunity came when there was an article in the Indiana Statesman calling students to submit their ideas for this semester’s student speech. Skates said his professor Rhonda Inpink explained how much she would like to see someone from the department give the student commencement speech this semester, during class one day.

“Students in the back of the class automatically started saying that I was the one who should try it,” Skates said.

Now that his college days at Indiana State are over, Skates says he will miss the friends he met on the ISU campus.

“As we get older, we take things for granted,” Skates said. “We always realize each other’s differences, but I want students to see that they have so much more in common with each other than they may think, and not just because they all go to the same college either.”

Photo: Brandon Skates

Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

Writer: Amanda Bedwell, media relations intern, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or abedwell@mymail.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

After finishing high school, Brandon Skates faced an uncertain future but found new opportunities and dreams at Indiana State University. His most recent accomplishment was being selected as the student speaker for the 2008 spring commencement ceremony, scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday (May 3) at Hulman Center.

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