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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Mary Oluokun has sung the "Star Spangled Banner" dozens of times, at dozens of events, including her own high school graduation and even a mayoral inauguration. But the first-year Bucknell University student is still a little nervous about performing the National Anthem at the University's 163rd Commencement on May 19.
"It will be a huge crowd, plus everyone watching online," said Oluokun. "It's really exciting, and nerve-wracking."
This year will be the first time in recent history the National Anthem will be sung a capella at Commencement, rather than performed by an instrumental ensemble.
"I'm so happy to see the seniors graduate, and a little sad. They're going on to do big things," said Oluokun. "It's a great honor and privilege to be chosen to sing."
Oluokun has been performing all her life. "I sing in church, I sing with my parents — my whole family is a singing family," said Oluokun, the oldest of seven children. At Bucknell, she jams with a friend who plays guitar, and harmonizes with Two Past Midnight, the University's oldest co-ed a capella group.
"You have to find something that resonates with you outside of classes," said Oluokun. "I found Two Past Midnight. They've become like family to me. I always wanted to be in a group where you can just walk along and burst into song. Now, harmony comes out of nowhere. I love it." || Watch Oluokun perform with Two Past Midnight.
Oluokun said her experience as a Boston Posse Scholar is another reason Bucknell is such a good fit for her. "I have eight other people with me for support," she said.
The Posse Program identifies, recruits and trains student leaders from public high schools and sends them in multicultural teams — or posses — to top colleges and universities. Posse students are supported by scholarships, mentors and their peers as they navigate their way through college. || Read more about The Posse Foundation.
Though she's part of the Boston Posse, Oluokun's journey to Bucknell actually started in Nigeria, where she was born and lived with her family until she was 9. "My father is a pastor. When he joined a seminary in Mississippi, we left Nigeria," she said. They later moved to Tennessee and, finally, Massachusetts.
"It's been a long journey to Bucknell," she said. "But I'm so glad I'm here. Bucknell is the perfect place for me. I can't see myself anywhere else."
Bucknell University's 163rd Commencement celebration will take place on Sunday, May 19, beginning at 10 a.m. Bucknell alumnus and United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati will deliver the keynote address. For those unable to attend, the ceremony will be live streamed. The ceremony will also be shown in the Weis Center for the Performing Arts and Trout Auditorium in the Vaughan Literature Building. For a complete schedule of commencement events, registration and general information, visit Commencement 2013.
Barring heavy rain or severe weather, the Commencement ceremony will be held on the Academic Quad; guests should dress accordingly. In the event inclement weather prompts a decision to hold the ceremony indoors, an alert will be emailed to the campus community and posted to the University's homepage and social media channels. || Follow BucknellU on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.