When 2023 Dougherty Family College commencement speaker Ayoko Agbobly took the stage to address attendees, she had an air of confidence. Koko, as she is known to her friends, had come a long way from “the quiet kid in the front of the class who had so much to say but was too shy to say it.” That is what the usually soft-spoken Agbobly said in the opening of her speech about how she was during her high school days.
At commencement, her voice was strong and her message powerful. Even President Rob Vischer noted, “as I was listening to Koko wrap up her remarks, I was thinking, ‘boy I feel sorry for whoever has to follow her.’” Then he had the sinking realization that he was up next.
Agbobly told the crowd, “When I arrived at DFC, I was excited to start college because it was a chance to do things differently, a fresh start. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes I made in high school. I didn’t want to look back at my college experience and regret all the things I didn’t do.”
At DFC, she quickly found a home and a voice. “I was immersed in a community where I was accepted, celebrated and empowered,” she said. “I started signing up for things, taking more risks, and accepting more of the opportunities presented to me.”
A student advisory board member, a Phi Theta Kappa and a tutor, Agbobly inspired her peers during her commencement address.
“Our unique backgrounds give us a different perspective that adds a new voice to the conversation,” she said. “I encourage you all to use this privilege you have and the tools you’ve cultivated throughout these years to take up that space. Your thoughts, your opinions, your perspectives matter. You all have so much to offer the world.”
She told her peers – who were conferred with an associate degree – not to be hard on themselves and not to focus on any perceived shortcomings or compare themselves to others. “This leaves us feeling bad about ourselves … because comparison is the thief of joy. The only person you should worry about being better than is the person you were in the past. Treat your past actions and experiences as learning lessons and grow from them.”
A DFC Excellence Scholarship awardee, Agbobly will attend the University of St. Thomas in the fall on full scholarship to obtain her bachelor’s degree. She will be joined by many of her peers.
“My DFC experience was amazing,” said Walter Hoskins, who will be continuing on at St. Thomas for his bachelor’s degree in business marketing. “You had the perfect community, you had a place where you could expand your thoughts, your personality and that’s very important.”
Sirichai Thao said, “My DFC experience to me meant ‘ohana’, it meant home, it meant family – and it meant to be intentional because DFC is there for you and has always been there for you. Whenever you need help, reach out to DFC.” Thao will major in computer science for his bachelor’s degree at St. Thomas.
Regarding her DFC experience, Layla Siferllah-Griffin said, “I don't even have words to describe how great of a program it is.” She'll be continuing at St. Thomas to study marketing. Her older sisters also attended Dougherty Family College and have become instructors of dance, one in New York and one at Spelman College in Atlanta.
“DFC taught me to be a better person and also showed me that I have people around me and I can count on them,” said Hello Seo, who plans to study entrepreneurship at St. Thomas.
As for Camila Barcenas Herndez regarding graduating with her associate degree from the Dougherty Family College, she said, “I feel rewarded, I feel this was all worth the wait."