ALBANY -- There are three words that can lead someone to success, Albany State University's Fall Commencement speaker Lecester Bill Allen said.
Conceive, believe and achieve.
The 331 students he spoke to Saturday had already used the concepts embodied in those words, said Allen an accomplished educator and real estate entrepreneur with more than 30 charter schools and other business interests in the country.
"I am looking at people who are conceivers, believers and achievers. Many of you had to first conceive the idea that you could go to college. The original idea may not have been yours, it may have been from the parents, the grandparents an aunt or a cousin," Allen said.
"But somewhere along the way it had to become yours because grandmothers, mothers, fathers did not take those classes and did not make the sacrifices you had to make to be sitting here today."
The new graduates in the Albany Civic Center should continue to conceive what they want to accomplish, believe that they can accomplish their plans and they will once again achieve their goals, Allen said.
While everyday will not be rosy in the graduates future, Allen said, that from this day on they would at least be able to say, "At least I finished college.
"So young people today I say to you, it doesn't matter what you went through or what you are going through, you can say at least I graduated college. And nobody can take that away from you. You are the leaders."
That was the message from a man introduced by Everette J. Freeman university president, as a man who knew what it was like to be a poor boy from the backwoods of Arkansas.
Allen migrated to Detroit, graduated from Wayne State University and became a teacher. He made a teacher's wage, which was not going to get him the things he wanted.
Allen branched out and invested in real estate and day care centers. He also started the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute, a national, non-profit training center for students who want to develop their own businesses.
"He never forgot that he could reach back and help others," Freeman said. "He has spent his entire life reaching back and helping others."
Allen's story and speech struck a chord with Jourdon Gamble, 23, an accounting graduate from Lithonia. He plans to get his master's in finance.
"It was great motivation," Gamble said. "What he said will not only serve us not only in school but in life."
Putting school life behind erupted in cheers and whoops from a crowd of more than 1,500 in the center. The crowd called out names of their family members as the students walked up the stage to be handed their diplomas.
Many students hugged Freeman as he handed almost every one of them their diplomas.
Jordan Beard, 22, got his diploma by someone other than Freeman - His mother, Audrey Beard, chair of the education department went to the platform to hand the diploma to him.
"It really felt good to have my mother give me the diploma," Beard, an early education major said. "It was special."
Outside as the new grads exited the building, fraternities and sororities held their own traditional graduation ceremonies. Fraternity brothers sang loud and cheered with enthusiasm. Sororities sang songs that seemed more from the heart.
Standing inside a circle of their Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters, new graduates D'yana Hardaway, 22, Valerie Lee and Ashley Tremble, both 24, hugged each other as their sorority sisters serenaded them.
"It felt good to be sung to," Hardaway said. "It means they'll miss me."