Rakea L. Joyner is the Bearer of the Mace for ECSU
Kesha Williams December 19, 2012
Rakea L. Joyner was pleasantly surprised last week when she learned she would be
the Bearer of the Mace at Elizabeth City State University's Winter Commencement. The
honor is bestowed upon the senior class, non-transfer student with the highest grade
Joyner's goal was to graduate with honors and she worked diligently to reach it. Her
3.8 grade point average was higher than that of any senior in her class. She was delighted
to hold the Mace as she led the procession of 184 students into the Robert L. Vaughan
Center for ECSU's 155th commencement on Dec. 15. It took her three and a half years
to earn her undergraduate degree in criminal justice. She joins a cadre of alumni
that includes her mother, brother, uncle and grandmother. She credits the presence
of her family with helping her have a wonderful experience at ECSU.
"I am glad I came here because I had an experience that you are not likely to have
at a bigger school," said Joyner, who is from Elizabeth City. "The faculty care about
you. They get to know the students because the classes are small," she said. "Here,
I didn't have to worry about the distractions that may come with studying at a school
in a big city. Best of all, I could be near my grandmother and other family members."
Because family members attended the university and shared their experiences, she felt
right at home at ECSU. Brenda Joyner, her mother, also introduced her to other alumni.
Joyner lived on campus in order to fully embrace the college lifestyle and to reach
classes easily. Over the last year, she worked as a resident assistant at Viking Village
and held a 20-hour-a-week job at McDonalds. Late at night or on weekends, she spent
extra hours studying. Even with a busy schedule, Joyner participated in specialized
programs at ECSU-she was a participant and later a mentor for new students participating
in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), a National Science
Foundation supported alliance of academic institutions that aim to increase the quality
and quantity of students successfully completing science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs. It also aims to assist qualified
students in pursuit of graduate degrees.
Joyner also participated in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program,
a federally funded program at institutions of higher education designed to prepare
disadvantaged undergraduate students for doctoral studies.
She also found time to visit residents of Winslow Memorial Home with fellow church
members at Freeway Tabernacle of Prayer for All People. Her faith has been an important
part of her journey.
"I thank God. He allowed me to matriculate through the years here," she said. "I came
(to ECSU) for monetary reasons and I am glad to have saved money by studying here.
I graduated from Northeastern High School, earned my degree in Elizabeth City but
will leave to attend law school."
For high school students who wonder if ECSU is the right university for them, she
has good advice.
"They will find good (academic) programs here, helpful faculty and staff, and a lot
of independent help if you need it. There are great opportunities for you to get involved,
join clubs related to your major," Joyner said.
Joyner said her only regret is to leave ECSU knowing that other students will not
have the privilege of participating in the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement
Program. She participated during her senior year. The U. S. Department of Education
recently decided to fund fewer institutions. ECSU offered the program for the last
18 years. She valued the program because it challenged students to complete research
programs and enabled participants to visit the campuses of graduate and professional
Joyner said her next goal is to earn a law degree in order to help people obtain the
legal representation they deserve.