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John Quiñones gives inspirational speech to Davis and Elkins graduates

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John Quiñones, co-anchor of ABC’s “Primetime Live” and anchor of the Primetime series “What Would You Do?,” brought his personal message to 187 graduates of Davis & Elkins College.

In his Commencement address on May 17 on the outdoor plaza, Quiñones shared the story of his own struggles of obtaining success. “Take it from me, so much of success—so much of ‘making it’—is a state of mind,” Quiñones told the graduates and guests. “When you’re faced with challenges, as no doubt you will be, keep reminding yourself that you are worthy. When someone is trying to bring you down, they are just projecting their own problems and failings. Pay them no mind. Ignore them. Instead, surround yourself with people who believe in you.”

From a life of poverty in a Mexican-American barrio of San Antonio, Texas, and the work as a migrant farm worker, Quiñones said he learned he had to take the first step and continue pushing for success. As a child, he and his cousin shined shoes on the streets to earn money for their families. When he was a teenager, Quiñones’s father lost his job as a janitor, and the family “jumped on board a caravan of trucks” and became migrant farm workers. They picked cherries in Michigan for 75 cents a bucket and harvested tomatoes for 35 cents a bushel. While picking tomatoes early one morning, Quiñones’s father asked him if he wanted to do farm work or attend college. His answer—go to college.

Despite his childhood dream of becoming a television reporter, Quiñones said there were obstacles, like counselors who tried to instead steer him to vocational school and finances. Words of inspiration came from Martin Luther King to “just take that first step.” For Quiñones, he said that meant applying for government help in the form of Upward Bound.

“Thank God,” Quiñones said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Upward Bound. Some people might call it a government handout. I call it a life saver.”

At the end of his speech, Quiñones urged students to pursue their dreams, whatever they those dreams may be.

Board of Trustess Chair June B. Myles also announced that two longtime friends of Davis and Elkins are giving $250,000 in recognition of Michael Mihalyo's first year as president. The donors expressed the hope that others will join them in a similar expression of support by contributing an additional $250,000 during the final 45 days of the college's fiscal year that ends June 30.