2023 Sankofa Ceremony & Celebration

Each year since 2009, RVC has conducted a Sankofa Ceremony and Celebration. This year's ceremony was held on Friday, May 12, 2023, at the Stenstrom Center for Career Education.


2023 Sankofa Ceremony & Celebration

Sankofa is not a graduation; instead, like many other similar cultural celebrations, it is considered a rite of passage, a moment when a society or community recognizes that some of its members have reached a milestone and will move on to the next steps in their journeys. 

Respected community members were invited to address the students and be recognized as those whose shoulders we stand, honoring national and local historical persons who have made lasting, positive contributions to our nation and community. Families, friends, and loved ones who have supported our students are honored, and most importantly, students are honored for their career, academic, athletic, and life achievements. 

Sankofa is a West African (Akan) word that means "It is not forbidden to go back and retrieve what you have forgotten" or "Go back to the past to build for the future." It is represented by a bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth.

Fourteen years ago, Prof. Theresa P. Gilbert, Department of Composition and Literature, presented the concept of a celebration for our African American graduates and completers to the members of the college's Black History and Culture Committee, and she still remembers their enthusiasm for it. "Over several years, I had witnessed similar ceremonies at colleges and universities across the country, said Dr. Gilbert. "It seemed to me and the committee that our community college students had as much to celebrate, maybe more than many of their four-year counterparts." 

During the ceremony, students received a Kente cloth stole to wear at Commencement that represents the community's recognition of their accomplishments and its pride in them. Kente cloth is a hand-woven fabric made in West Africa; it is worn on special occasions and is highly prized. Wearing it connects one to the rich heritage that provides guidance, encouragement, support, and a constant reminder of one's human dignity and worth. 

"Our students' successes had come at greater sacrifice for some of them, over longer periods of time for others, and with challenges unknown to other students, said Dr. Gilbert. "In other words, our students deserved a "Sankofa Moment" and so did their families and our community." 

Professor Caryl Brown Award

Professor Caryl Brown was a distinguished and highly respected member of the Rock Valley Faculty in the Communications and Humanities Divisions from 1990 until her sudden death in 2001. She created Humanities 115, which she loved teaching, published textbooks and articles, lectured and consulted nationwide, and judged nationally recognized speech competitions, including the Land of Lincoln Speech Tournament of Rock Valley College. 

Gianna Bullard

Kamaria Deckard

Lauren George 

Victor Hughes

Jeffrey Penny

Isabella Wright

Amaya Livingston

Professor Charles Lee Anderson Award

Dr. Charles Lee Anderson, professor emeritus of Psychology, was employed at Rock Valley College for over 25 years, from 1971 until his death in 1996. Dr. Anderson was committed to helping his students succeed in his classes. He was known for using a variety of innovative methods to motivate his students to achieve higher grades, grades which he believed they could achieve.

Tatym Coe- Women's Basketball 

Payton Matthews- Baseball

Raven Rogers- Women's Basketball

George Williams- Men's Basketball

Jaden Newson- Women's Basketball

Camron Blank- Women's Basketball

Dr. Florence Cephas Award

Dr. Florence Cephus, Counselor and professor emerita, was the first African American professional hired at RVC in 1968; she retired in 1998 after serving the college for 30 years. She founded the Focus on Women program and established the Adult Life Planning Center. She was an advisor to the Black Student Alliance and the Adults on Campus organization, which she co-founded. In her honor, the Black History and Culture Committee annually presents the Florence Cephus Award to a deserving Adult on Campus. 

Parthene Boose

Millicent Perry

Dr. Arnold "Les" Ross Award

Dr. Arnold "Les" Ross, professor emeritus, counselor, and director of counseling, was employed at Rock Valley College from 1972 until his retirement as Director of Counseling in May 1995. Dr. Ross was a model director, expanding the Counseling area while maintaining the quality of its programs and work. In retirement, he is actively involved with Alpine Kiwanis, where he has continued his lifelong love of music.

Lauren George- Student Worker Financial Aid

Simone Werner- Student Worker Dean of Student Office 

Jaden Newson- Student Worker Welcome Desk 

Dr. Lamata Mitchell Award

Dr. Lamata Mitchell serves as Vice President of Instruction & Academic Operations at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, AZ. As Vice President, Dr. Mitchell oversees instruction and academic and operational services across a multi-campus district. She leads college-wide initiatives and oversees student assessment, curriculum and scheduling, strategic planning, and accreditation.

Before Dr. Mitchell's tenure at Pima, she began her teaching career as an adjunct with the English department at Rock Valley College and later became a tenured professor.

Travion Anderson Oliver -Student Government Association Member

Isabella Wright- Phi Theta Kappa Officer

Congratulations to all who were recognized during the Sankofa celebration.