SMC speaker’s advice to grads: Be grateful

Published 3:42 am Monday, May 5, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
DOWAGIAC -- One piece of advice Mary Parks passed on to graduates Saturday came from none other than Oprah Winfrey.
Addressing graduates at Southwestern Michigan College's 36th commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Zollar Sports Center on the Dowagiac campus, Parks related that Oprah suggested keeping a journal during a Michiana interview with newswomen in 1987.
Faithfully jot down each night a couple of positive things which happen.
The result, Parks said, "is that you will change your perspective on life. You will focus on what you have. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never have enough. Be grateful."
Parks also urged graduates to get involved in something larger than themselves.
Applying their knowledge to a "cause," such as tutoring or illiteracy, will return rewards tenfold.
She recalled a boss who discouraged her ambitions in journalism, which only "made me more determined" to succeed.
Later this year when her novel and children's books are published, she will send copies to that boss who wanted her to give up.
The point of that story, Parks said, "is there are so many people along the road who will encourage you to stray from your heart's desire."
Graduates should imagine grand visions and possibilities for their lives because "you become what you believe."
She talked constantly in school and when it wasn't getting her in trouble, it gave her a clue to something she could do that she loved.
Another "choice" Parks urged graduates to make is to cherish relationships with families and friends.
Dr. Ilene Sheffer, vice president for community services and development, introduced Parks, who graduated from Edwardsburg High School in 1980. She was Miss Edwardsburg and the first Miss Cass County. She graduated from SMC in 1982 and from Western Michigan University in 1984.
Parks began her journalism career in radio, working at WKZO in Kalamazoo, WCMR/WRFN in Elkhart, Ind., and WAOR/WNIL in Niles.
She made the move to television news when she joined WSJV in Elkhart.
Parks next joined WFLA, WCPX and CBS NewsNet in Florida, covering shuttle launches at Cape Canaveral, the William Kennedy Smith trial, Desert Storm assignments and the search, capture and trial of America's first female serial killer.
Parks is bureau chief and reporter for NBC4 in California, overseeing all news gathering and live reporting for Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
She has received Golden Mics, Emmys, Associated Press and Los Angeles Press Club awards. Former governor Pete Wilson appointed her an advocate for the developmentally disabled. She has coached Special Olympics in several states.
Parks is active with the Loma Linda Children's Hospital Guild, Riverside Rape Crisis Center and Option House, California's first battered women's shelter in San Bernardino.
She is also a board member of the Inland Empire Burn Institute, a non-profit that funds research and treatment for burn survivors.