RVC's Sankofa Celebration: Honoring Achievement, Unity, and Empowerment

Since 2009, RVC has annually hosted the Sankofa Ceremony and Celebration. This year's event took place on Friday, May 10, 2024, at the Stenstrom Student Center Atrium on RVC's main campus.


Graduates celebrate with family and friends during the Sankofa event on Friday, May 10, 2024.

Professor Theresa P. Gilbert from the Department of Composition and Literature initially proposed the concept of a celebration for African American graduates and completers to the members of the college's Black History and Culture Committee. In this years’ address, she thanked the committee for coordinating this year's event and recognized the contributions of staff, faculty, and administrators.

Continuing her reflection on the past fourteen years of Sankofa recognition, Professor Gilbert remarked, "We've had 525 individuals bringing new skills, new knowledge into our community. They are equipped to elevate our community and transform it for the greater good."

Professor Gilbert underscored the importance of acknowledging African American contributions across various artistic genres, emphasizing the significance of preserving history and community memory through art, music, and literature. The event featured artworks by local artists showcased during the dinner, while Rockford Youth Poetry Laureate Trinity Rucker delivered a captivating poetry reading.

Community members were invited to address the students and be acknowledged as the pillars upon whose shoulders they stand. This honors national and local historical figures who have made enduring, positive contributions to the nation and community. Families, friends, and loved ones who have supported the students were also recognized, while, most importantly, students were celebrated for their achievements in career, academics, athletics, and life.

Mr. Joseph Agbecko, Dean of College Readiness & Learning Supports shared the importance of drawing strength from past experiences to empower the future. "Every day, remain steadfast in your resolve to learn, adapt, and evolve in the face of adversity. Amidst the pursuit of personal greatness, let us never lose sight of the profound significance of humility and empathy. Though such true success is not measured by personal accomplishment, but rather by the transformative impact we have on the lives of others through the acts of kindness, compassion and selfless service." 

The following awards were presented to students during the Sankofa Ceremony:

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. 

Jailah Campbell

Corey Hawkins

Blessing Nwotite

Kervin Thomas

Timberlyn Turner

Tristen Romine

Terrance Watkins

Yariyana Goens Yarborough

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.

Alicia Bates - Women's Basketball 

Bre’Najah Davis - Women's Basketball 

Kenneth Garth - Men's Basketball

Jasmyn Hale - Women's Basketball

Maya Mitchell - Women's Basketball

Jamari Zawlocki - Women's Soccer

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. 

Rickey Brooks

Kervin Thomas

Charo Young

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.

Yalo Gill-Flori Assagoua

Ashanti Graves

Nivea Nathan

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.

Kavonnie Dotson

Jaz Nathan

Timberlyn Turner

Congratulations to all who were recognized during the Sankofa celebration.