Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Dr. Aariel Charbonnet, Phi Theta Kappa’s Manager of Member Support and Outreach.
Cheryl Bozeman, Gamma Lambda Chapter’s in-house Phi Theta Kappa recruiter, could not stop smiling at Hinds Community College’s spring induction ceremony on Friday, March 24. She has served this chapter in Raymond, Mississippi, for nine years. Every student knows “Ms. Cheryl.” Each semester, they receive her emails, phone calls, and letters, encouraging them to join Phi Theta Kappa.
Bozeman’s passion for students was palpable during Friday’s ceremony, one of two inductions this chapter puts on each year. Her face beamed as she proudly said the induction marked the second time in her Phi Theta Kappa tenure that more than 100 students joined before the ceremony. Among the chapter’s new members, approximately 60 participated in Friday’s festivities. As a first-time attendee at a Phi Theta Kappa induction ceremony, I was thoroughly impressed.
The Gamma Lambda Chapter’s induction ceremony space was packed. Standing guests lined the back of the auditorium. The presence of family and friends, as well as college administrators, created a supportive environment to honor these high-achieving students. The ceremony featured distinctive elements, which added value to the ceremony itself and the newly inducted Phi Theta Kappans.
After a short welcome from Debbie McCollum, the chapter’s contact advisor and District Honors Institute Dean, Hinds Community College President Dr. Clyde Muse congratulated the students on their outstanding academic accomplishments. The chapter’s Leadership Advisor Dr. Johannah Williams provided an overview of the chapter’s 2016-2017 highlights, which included a lecture series, regional and national conference participation, and sponsorship and participation in more than 1,200 hours of community service.
Following a brief history of Phi Theta Kappa by the Gamma Lambda Chapter Officer Team, Honors Program Director and Chapter Co-Advisor Tim Krason introduced each of the 60 inductees by name, major, and hometown. As each student’s name was called, he or she signed the Chapter Record Book, which sat on a Phi Theta Kappa-adorned table, complete with white roses to symbolize purity and beauty of life. Each candidate for membership received a candle, symbolic of “the torch of knowledge,” and the Phi Theta Kappa Key, a golden slab keyed at the top and bottom, the primary symbol representing the Honor Society.
The inductees formed a semi-circle in the auditorium. In a lovely candle-lighting ritual, each inductee lit one another’s “torches of knowledge.” The group then recited the Phi Theta Kappa pledge in unison, and candidates officially became the newest members of the Gamma Lambda Chapter. From the back of the auditorium, I watched this beautiful display of scholarly fellowship in awe and admiration.
After the ceremony, a reception hosted by Mississippi State University followed. Hannah Matthews, Mississippi State’s Assistant Director of Transfer Recruitment, interacted with the newest members of the Gamma Lambda Chapter. Matthews said the university strives to be present at local Phi Theta Kappa chapter meetings, inductions, and activities as much as possible. Matthews’ presence gives students a name and a face to associate with Mississippi State University.
“I’m here for the students … encouraging them and congratulating them. But I’m also here to show them the opportunities they have through Mississippi State being a Phi Theta Kappa member,” Matthews said.
The reception took place at the Hinds Community College Art Gallery. There, I had the pleasure of speaking with several students and families. Among this group was Josh Price, a freshman football player who prides himself on being a scholar-athlete. Price’s siblings traveled from Connecticut and California to witness this special moment in their younger brother’s life.
“I feel so proud of him,” said Josh’s older sister, Christian Price. “It’s really hard to be a student-athlete, especially when people make assumptions about what you do or what you’re capable of. So, the fact that he was able to get a high GPA and also stay committed to football and balancing that identity of being a student-athlete really makes me proud.”
Another student, freshman Ariel Merlin, learned of Phi Theta Kappa from his older brother, a PTK alumnus, who pushed him to talk to Ms. Cheryl. After one meeting with Ms. Cheryl, Merlin learned that he met the eligibility criteria and decided to accept membership immediately. With plans to transfer to a four-year institution and then pursue dental school, Merlin was highly interested in Phi Theta Kappa’s scholarship opportunities and resume building.
The induction ceremony exceeded Merlin’s expectations. The candle lighting, the pledge, and the outpouring of support from friends, family, and college administrators made the ceremony special. The feeling was mutual for McCollum.
“Working with the Gamma Lambda advisor team has been a pleasure and has provided some of the most meaningful professional experiences of my career,” McCollum said. “We’ve enjoyed specialized training and travel while working with the best students at Hinds. These young scholars are the future of our state, and seeing them grow as leaders is both an honor and a privilege.”
From a new staff member’s perspective, I wholeheartedly agree with Merlin. The time, attention, and care the Gamma Lambda Chapter devoted to its induction ceremony and members was remarkable. Huge kudos to Cheryl Bozeman and the chapter advisor team—Debbie McCollum, Dr. Ben Cloyd, Jack Hite, Tim Krason, Amie Ray and Dr. Johannah Williams—for a job well done.
For Phi Theta Kappa induction resources, visit our webpage to access materials needed, a ceremony script, an order of events, and much more.