A few months ago, Jameel Rush took his John Wanamaker Middle School yearbook and logged on to his Facebook account. He searched for each of the 60 names of his former classmates to see how many were enrolled in college.
Three names came up. The human resource management major, who has lived a block away from Temple his entire life, is not only one of the few from his middle school who will be graduating from college, but he has also been chosen to speak at the commencement ceremony May 17. Rush said he decided to audition for undergraduate
commencement speaker when he received an e-mail from the Fox School of Business and Management.
“When I saw the e-mail, I thought, ‘I think I can pull this off,'” he said. But Rush had to first compete against other business
students to speak at the Fox School diploma ceremony.
After speaking in front of a panel of judges, he was selected and then he went on to compete against all of the other candidates chosen from each college at Temple. Rush discovered he would be speaking at commencement when his high school friend, Nicole Armbrister,
accidentally told him.
Her father, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Clarence Armbrister, casually mentioned to her that Rush had been selected.
“She called me and said, ‘Did you hear you’re going to be commencement speaker?’ And I just pretended like I knew,” Rush said. Rush said having the insight of both a Temple student and community member is part of the reason why he thinks he was chosen. But being the president of Temple Society for Human Resource Management, president of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church Youth Choir and receiving the Human Resource Management Faculty Award while maintaining his grades and two part-time jobs also played a part. Armbrister, who wrote a recommendation letter for Rush, said he has always been impressed by his hard work.
“Given the opportunity he had the chance to excel, he did,” Armbrister said, adding that Rush exemplifies Russell Conwell’s “acres of diamonds” ideology of finding riches in all walks of life.
“Diamonds can be found in your own backyard,” Armbrister said.
Rush said there are more than a few diamonds in North Philadelphia.
“I want to give back to where I came from,” he said.
After graduation, Rush plans to stay in Philadelphia to work for ARAMARK International, and though he will be traveling 65 percent of the time, he said he doesn’t plan to abandon his roots.
“It’s not like I want to graduate and get out of the neighborhood I grew up in,” he said. “I want to get to a place where I can use the resources I’ve attained to go back to the community and go back to those people who I know are struggling and bring them up to a place where I know they can reach because I see potential.”
The first in his household to graduate from college, Rush, using his resources and knowledge, has served as a mentor to his younger brother. Maurice, who is a freshman, has decided to follow his brother’s business track.
“He’s helped me though classes and recommended which teachers to take and who not to take,” Maurice said. “There have been a lot of times when I was about to do something stupid and he stopped me and said, ‘You’re better than that; we’re better than that.'”
He said he has always looked up to his older brother, and said that Jameel’s constant competitive nature has gotten him this far.
“He has this spirit within him that doesn’t like to take no for an answer,” Maurice said. “He doesn’t like to fail.” The elder Rush is anxiously awaiting the big day, but his family may be more nervous than he is.
“I’ve been thinking about it ever since I found out, and I’m thinking about it now,” said his mother, Wanda Rush, 49. “But I think I’m just going to cry.”
Jameel Rush said being the undergraduate commencement speaker is the perfect way to end the school year and encapsulate his time spent at Temple.
“It kind of caps off the whole four years in one big moment,” he said.
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.