Twin Reasons for Bryant and Cogman Families To Celebrate Claflin’s Commencement

May 09, 2016

When the Bryants from York, S.C. and the Cogmans from Accokeek, Md. travel to Orangeburg, S.C. to attend Claflin University’s 146th Commencement Convocation at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the South Atlantic Seventh-day Adventist Worship and Convention Center, they will have two reasons to be proud. Two reasons to be excited. Two reasons to celebrate.

The Bryants are coming to see twins Helen and Myrtle graduate and the Cogmans will be there for the graduation of their twin sons James and Jacob.

The four are among the 422 students who comprise Claflin’s Class of 2016.  Helen and Myrtle Bryant and Jacob Cogman have perfect 4.0 grade point averages, and James Cogman has a 3.75 grade point average.  They are not surprised by their success. It’s what each predicted when they arrived at Claflin. 

All four are distinguished scholars in the prestigious Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College. Freshmen entering the program are required to create a vision board which lists annual and four-year goals, classes they will take and honors and awards they hope to achieve.

Myrtle and Helen Bryant, twin biochemistry majors, aimed high and wrote they wanted to graduate with honors.

“But I didn’t think at that time I would graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average,” said Helen. “The biology and chemistry classes we take are challenging and difficult, but we made it.”

On the other hand, Jacob Cogman knew that he would be a leader. In fact, Jacob had already envisioned himself walking down the aisle adorned with the regalia of an honors graduate.

“I was a graduation usher my freshman year at Claflin,” said Jacob. “I looked at the cords and hoods, and while I didn’t know what they all meant, I knew they represented special achievements and that’s what I wanted. I have always visualized myself as being a leader.”

The Bryants and Cogmans are good friends and both say they have found that having a twin on campus has been a positive experience.

“We have always supported and encouraged each other,” said Jacob, who majors in politics and justice studies and philosophy and religion. “If nobody else has my back, I know James does and I have his. I know he is there for me, and I’m there for him.”

Myrtle and Helen have a similar relationship.

“We bounce ideas off each other,” said Myrtle. “We are not in competition with each other or with our classmates. We are here to help each other succeed.”

The students say hard work and high expectations from Claflin’s faculty and staff and from their families, is what pushed them toward, what Jacob calls, “intentionality.”

“I treated college like a job,” Jacob said. “I was on the clock from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and sometimes, just like with a job, I had to take work home. My paycheck was my transcript.

“But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I’m where I am today, with these honors, because of the grace of God who says that if you work to do your part, he can then step in and help us to meet and exceed our own expectations.”

The collective accomplishments and affiliations of both sets of twins are numerous and impressive.  Helen and Myrtle are Presidential Scholars and members of the American Chemistry Society. Helen is president of the organization’s student chapter.  Both are members of Friends of the Earth and serve as health coaches at Orangeburg Regional Medical Hospital.

The Bryants, and another classmate, Meha Patel, developed GlucAlert, a smartwatch device, similar to Fitbit©, that will alert diabetic patients when their blood glucose level becomes too low or too high. Either condition can have negative, sometimes fatal, effects on the body. They visited the White House again several weeks ago and participated in the My Brother’s Keeper “I Have a Dream Summit.”

After growing up, graduating from high school and now attending college together, the twins will soon separate.  The Bryants will spend the next year on the West Coast as part of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps – a year spent in intentional service with a social justice non-profit agency, practicing simple and sustainable living and exploring spiritually. Helen will be in Seattle, Wash. working with Transitional Resources, an agency helping the mentally ill, assisting them with transitioning back into society. And Myrtle will be 13 hours away in Berkley, Calif. working with homeless youth. After that, they both plan to resume their academic pursuits and attend medical school.

“It would be nice to go to medical school together,” Myrtle said. “But wherever we are, we will do our best. Our parents (Morris and Lisa Bryant) expect nothing less. Besides, we can stay connected through social media.”

The Cogmans’ noteworthy accolades include Jacob being named to Who’s Who Among American Collegiate Scholars; membership in the Golden Key Honor Society; Sigma Alpha Pi; Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society; Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society and Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society.  Jacob was also captain of Claflin’s Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Quiz Bowl Team.  He took advantage of Claflin’s globalization focus when he travelled to London, England in a short-term study abroad program to examine the country’s criminal justice laws and proceedings.  Jacob will continue his studies at the Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta after graduation.

James was a three-year member of the Claflin baseball team and he was twice named to the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s (SIAC) All-Academic Team. He is a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, Chi Alpha Sigma Collegiate Athlete National Honor Society and founder of MOVERS – an acronym for Men of Valor Emphasizing Respect and Service.  James also participated in a study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

James majored in politics and justice studies and psychology. He is headed to Yale Divinity School, in New Haven, Conn.

“Religion, politics and law are my primary interests,” said James.  I am looking forward to this next phase of personal and academic journey at Yale.”

The quartet agreed that coming to Claflin helped nurture them and gave them a perfect launching pad into the next phase of their lives. Jacob recalled that on their first trip to Claflin they were late for the appointment. A counselor from the Office of Admissions called to see if they were lost.

“That small gesture told me all I needed to know about Claflin,” Jacob said. “I knew this was a place that cared.”

Added James: “I tell students if you are interested in a small, intimate place where you are nurtured and empowered as a scholar, then choose Claflin. If you are interested in a study abroad opportunity, choose Claflin. Claflin has a legacy, and if you want to make your mark, then Claflin is the place.”

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