GGC student selected to participate in King Center MLK Day event

Georgia Gwinnett College student Kaveh Vakili will be one of 10 Atlanta region students to speak at the Martin Luther King Day observance at the King Center.

Georgia Gwinnett College student Kaveh Vakili will be one of 10 Atlanta region students to speak at the Martin Luther King Day observance at the King Center. 

“I am honored to have this opportunity to speak at the MLK event,” he said. “To me, it represents how the possibilities in this country are endless.” 

Opportunity is a recurring theme in the 24-year old senior’s life, and something he clearly appreciates.

Vakili was born in Iran to a family that was part of a religious group repressed by the Iranian government. Individuals practicing the Baha’i Faith were not allowed to pursue higher education or to obtain many types of jobs. Vakili’s parents decided they wanted their three sons to have a brighter future, specifically to include higher education, so they came to the U.S. as refugees about 12 years ago.

The move was challenging, as Vakili spoke no English when his family arrived in Atlanta. However, he persevered and will complete his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing this semester. As a student at Georgia Gwinnett, Vakili has taken advantage of every opportunity the college experience has provided. He has enthusiastically participated in a variety of academic and student activities, ranging from a marketing class project for Red Cross to competing on GGC’s first dragon boat team.

“I believe in challenging myself and pursuing opportunities to broaden myself as a person,” Vakili said. “Since I’ve been on this campus, a lot of things have happened to give me opportunities to do this. I love this school. It’s given me a chance when other schools would not.”

Vakili was encouraged to apply for one of the King Commemorative Service’s student speaking roles by Dr. Maria Lumpkin, director of Student Involvement and the Student Center at GGC. After an application and interview process, he was selected as one of 10 students who will present parts of “Let My People Go,” a litany of commemorations honoring King. 

In preparation, Vakili and the other student speakers trained with a professional speech coach assigned to help them evoke the spirit with which the civil rights leader addressed his audiences. Vakili noted that even the speech coach has echoed his own sentiments about opportunity.

“She told us that opportunities will call upon you, and you must be ready for them,” he said.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service will be held Monday, Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The program will air live on Atlanta’s Fox 5.

Vakili’s parents, Farhang and Rouhangiz Vakili of Sugar Hill will watch the event on television at home with his brothers, one, a recent college graduate and the other planning to attend college. One can only imagine what the day will mean to them, having fled repression to now see their eldest son speak at the official commemorative observance for one of the world’s greatest civil rights leaders.

Vakili will also speak about his experience with the King event at Georgia Gwinnett College’s Martin Luther King Day observance for students, which will be presented at the GGC Student Center on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m.

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