A former Wittenberg graduate urged students to find their calling and get more involved in their community Monday during the university’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. convocation.
Bernadette Evans graduated from Wittenberg in 1989 and later co-founded an in-home tutoring service and a basketball league that serves more than 300 at-risk students in Wilmington, Del. She also served as part of a group that worked with police agencies to develop and improve relations between law enforcement and residents in Delaware.
Evans told a crowd at Wittenberg’s Weaver Chapel that everyone has a purpose and urged them not to shy away from difficult challenges. She highlighted King’s struggles to argue that change is possible, although it often doesn’t come easily.
“We each receive a life assignment that challenges us, that shapes us, and that we may have to perform under fire,” Evans said.
Evans said her own assignment was improving relations between police and residents in her home in Delaware. She said she didn’t always have a positive opinion of police, in part due to an experience while attending Wittenberg. But she said her opinions evolved after working with officers and residents to develop more positive interactions, a project she said was eventually successful.
“It was not easy, and it certainly wasn’t popular,” Evans said. “There was heavy skepticism with many in the community and on the police force.”
She encouraged students to find ways to become involved in work that will benefit future generations.
“The work you do here is not just for you,” Evans told students. “It is for the people who come behind you, because the same was done for you. Someone marched in Selma for you. Someone sat at lunch counters for you. Some went to jail for you.”
Taking on difficult challenges can be discouraging, Evans said. But she encouraged students to continue working toward whatever goal they have set.
“The rage can reside inside me, but it does not have to consume me,” she said. “Instead, I allow it to fuel me.”
Even seemingly minor contributions can have a positive impact, Evans told the crowd.
“Your mission may not be starting a worldwide movement, but don’t discount the possibility of an impact,” Evans said.
The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of Clark and Champaign Counties. For this story, the paper covered Wittenberg University’s annual Martin Luther King., Jr. Convovation and a speaker who urged students to have a positive impact in their community.