When Lydia McGriff accepted the award for 2014’s Outstanding Graduate during the recent Honors Convocation, her message to her classmates was a simple one.
“Be appreciative of everyone that has pushed you here,” McGriff said, recounting her speech. “Very few people who graduate from college do so without the help of family, professors, advisors or friends.
“College may only last four or five years, but it will inspire you the rest of your life. Remember and appreciate what you got here.”
The annual award, established in 1972, is given by the Alumni Association to a graduating senior in recognition of their achievements in the classroom and the contributions they have made to the university and community. Nominations are made by members of Missouri Southern’s faculty, staff and administration and the selection is made by the Alumni Awards Committee.
“It meant the world to me,” McGriff said of learning she had been selected as this year’s Outstanding Graduate. “I’m overwhelmed and very humbled.”
Though she didn’t immediately declare teacher education as her chosen major when she enrolled at Missouri Southern, McGriff said she knew it was the direction she wanted to go.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “In high school, we started thinking about career paths, and it was either that or find a way to save all the animals in the world. My mom was a teacher; my sister was studying to be a teacher. I’ve always liked working with kids and helping other people.”
McGriff spent her last semester student teaching fourth grade in Carl Junction. In the fall, she will teach fifth grade full time for Webb City.
“(The teacher education program at Southern) prepares their graduates really well,” she said. “I’m going to steal their tag line – knowledge, skills and dispositions. They teach you how to act like a teacher and be able to handle situations. Every student teacher I’ve talked to from here says, ‘I shouldn’t have been scared. I was prepared well.’”
The list of activities that McGriff has been a part of at Missouri Southern is a lengthy one. It includes Kappa Delta Pi, Alpha Chi, the MSSU International Reading Association, Southern Ambassadors, Student Senate and Super Leaders. Being involved with different campus groups is a vital part of college life, she said.
“It helped me to meet new people, but also to have experiences that are beyond college,” she said. “It’s a huge benefit to know what’s out there and what your classmates are doing. You can’t just stay in your building and expect to have a fulfilling experience.”