Mrs. Jessie Priest, 76, continues to believe in the power of education. The tradition of “Graduate Sunday” that Priest began in 1985 has continued at Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church for another year, recognizing the achievements of graduates and future graduates.
With the help of Sisters Ernestine Williams and Rodine Gamble, the accomplishments of nine recent graduates were celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, June 9, at the Browns Ferry church with gifts, congratulations, and a guest speaker.
As the graduates stood together at the altar, their gowns and cords shimmering under the church lights, Williams introduced Priest as “the backbone of Graduate Sunday” saying, “we are so excited the Lord has allowed her to be with us today. You’re an inspiration. In spite of everything this world throws at you, you stay positive and keep moving forward. That’s an amazing witness for us all.”
The honored high school graduates included Priest’s granddaughter, Dakayla, from Hartsville High School, Kiara Johnson from Georgetown High. Carvers Bay’s salutatorian Tyrin Gamble was honored along with his brother Jamoria Gamble. Future United States Marine Floyd Castle, Jr. from Carver’s Bay was recognized as well for his commitment.
The church family’s 2019 college graduates were Mikayla Morris, who received her Bachelor of Arts from Coastal Carolina University, Victoria S. Washington who received her Bachelor of Arts from South Carolina State University, Phillip Dennison who received his Associates Degree from Horry-Georgetown Tech and Letha S. Pressley who received her second Master’s Degree, this one from Gardner-Webb University.
From her wheelchair, Priest spoke briefly saying, “I thank God for allowing me to come back one more time. As you can see, God is a good God. I am so happy to see these young people and I asked Sister Pressley ‘Well how many Master’s are you gonna’ get?’ I’m really happy for all of them.” The benefactor also had words of praise for salutatorian Tyrin Gamble, calling him “a very instrumental because I hear his name a lot” then called each honoree by name and presented them with personal envelopes. She received her hugs and said with humble laughter, “I thank all of you for listening to little old me.”
Reverend Justin Gamble asked each graduate to share their plans, then commended all teachers and educational staff for their perseverance. “Take your rest this summer,” reminded Gamble, “another school year is on the way.”
Guest speaker Quiwanna Britton, who earned her second Master’s Degree in 2016 from Webster University, addressed the group and shared her educational journey since graduating from Carvers Bay High in 2004. She advised the group to “Be ready to come out of your comfort zone,” to “Grasp the present by living it fully” and to “Never quit when you suffer setbacks.”
Britton is currently a Health Science-Bio Med teacher at East Wake High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She began her post high school studies at Horry Georgetown Technical College where she received her diploma in Allied Health Science for Dental Assisting, enabling her to begin working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the age of 19.
A reception was held after the service for the graduates and their families.