Patience, perseverance and hard work are keys to overcoming barriers, The Rev. Hayes T. Gainey said during his keynote address at Saturday’s 12th annual UNCF Community Prayer Breakfast.
“I want to challenge you to conquer those barriers, step over those stumbling blocks and overcome handicaps," Gainey said. “It is our reaction to the barriers we encounter, it’s the way we deal with our stumbling blocks, it is our attitude with which we face our handicaps that will ultimately determine whether we fail or succeed.”
So far, Claflin University has raised nearly half of its $60,000 fundraising goal for the United Negro College Fund. In addition to Rev. Gainey’s address, attendees also enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet and musical selections by the Community Prayer Breakfast Ministers’ Choir and Edisto Fork United Methodist Church Mass Choir in Claflin’s Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center.
“By being here, by supporting us, you are indeed making a difference,” Claflin University President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale said. “By supporting Claflin University, you help us to continue being one of America’s best.”
Rev. Gainey said the smallest obstacles discourage young people today, and the slightest barrier or personal handicap may hinder them from trying. One young man who didn’t let obstacles stand in his way was Gates Millennium Scholar Jerel O. Lee, a senior biology major at Claflin. Lee was among 1,000 students chosen from a field of almost 30,000 applicants to receive the scholarship, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered through the UNCF. The scholarship will pay for his undergraduate and graduate education.
He said while growing up, many people told him that earning a full ride to college was nearly impossible.
“I had been told it could not be done on several occasions,” he said. “Once I discovered my true potential, I discovered that it can, and will, be done.”
After completing his degree at Claflin, Lee hopes to attend medical school and become a medical researcher.
“I hope to discover a cure for cancer from stem cells,” he said. “I have learned that if I work hard enough, there is no doubt in my mind that I can do anything. Because of UNCF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I know that I will be able to fill my ultimate goal of life, positively changing the lives of those around me. I want to be remembered for making a difference.”
Claflin’s UNCF fundraising campaign is still underway. To contribute, send checks, made payable to UNCF Claflin University, to: Claflin University, Institutional Advancement Office, 400 Magnolia Street, Orangeburg, SC, 29115.