Jalen Sims: A message for graduation at Northern Michigan University

Positively U.P.

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Jalen Sims is the student commencement speaker for Nothern Michigan University for the May 2021 graduation. The graduating senior and Graphic Design Major has been working on his message to his classmates.

After seeing communication from the university asking for applications to be the commencement speaker, he said, “Why not me?” He recorded a view of him reciting the speech, sent it in and he was selected.

“Within my speech some key points are diversity, reflecting on the past and appreciating all the people that have come into our lives and helped us get where we are now,” said Sims.

Originally from Waterford, Michigan, Sims came to Marquette and NMU in 2017. He spent two years on campus orientation staff. He’s also the director of the student art gallery. He’s also put in time with NMU EcoReps, Black Student Union, and the Graphic Design Club.

“So I’ve really participated in a lot and that’s kind of the legacy I put off is you can do whatever you want and no one’s really stopping you once you put your mind to it.”

Sims is putting his graphic design degree and passion for sustainable living to use, working on a farm brand called “Home Grown.”

“I would love to use my skills to play a part in everything. I will be a landlord soon. As soon as I move into my house I want to set up a hydroponic and get to farming my own food and things like that. Then ideally I’ll be producing enough food so I can go to the farmer’s market and sell it there. And with my graphic design skills I have a farming brand I’ve already set up that’s called “Home Grown” and ideally I could help the community in that way by providing food.”

Sims is committed to making the U.P. his home, with bigger ambition for his future.

“My big purpose kick that I’ve been on is that I’m trying to build generational wealth for my family. Just because as black people we don’t really have the infrastructure that many other groups of people do. So I want to be able to come in and build the foundation and infrastructure and be able to pass that down. So we can keep striving and ideally have a family that doesn’t have to struggle and can come into this world already with some success to keep building on, rather than starting from the ground up.”

Family is important to Sims. He says his mother has been his rock.

“I’ve just been showing her and helping her realize if you have the right mindset you can do what you want to do.”

As Sims prepares for the next steps in his life, he offered some wisdom for his fellow graduates.

“The first thing is really getting your mind right, overcoming self-doubt and low self-esteem. You need to believe in yourself or else no one else will. You need to work towards self-love. If you don’t love yourself who else will? I think the term, filling up your cup first and making sure everything you have is okay and that your life is set up the way you want.”

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