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Give Him the Mic: Aspiring Rapper Will Don Cap and Gown as Commencement Student Orator

He's a familiar figure around campus for his rap talents, delivered under the name 'Pinnacle,' but Jason Waller will leave his music behind in delivering the message as a Commencement student orator.

Date: 6/9/2008
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
Jason Wallerís decision to attend UC didnít just result in his getting an education. It became a life-changing experience.

Waller will receive a bachelorís degree in criminal justice during the morning session of UCís All University Commencement on Saturday, June 14. He will also deliver the student oration during the ceremony to thousands of graduates and their friends and families in attendance.

Jason Waller
Jason Waller

It wonít be the first time Waller has taken the mic in front of a crowd during his UC career Ė he is an aspiring rapper who performs under the stage name of "Pinnacle." He performed dozens of times on campus and, on one memorable night of his college career, he joined the group Jurassic 5 onstage before an on-campus crowd estimated at about 4,000 fans.

Waller, who is opting for speaking over rapping as his communication style for Commencement, graduated from Princeton High School and is from the Cincinnati suburb of Lincoln Heights.

"When I came to school, I was definitely a product of my environment, and that was a different environment from where I am now," says Waller. "It was an urban area and, at times, I connected with some of the stereotypes that go with that environment."

Waller saw his perspective begin to shift as he came to campus and started spending time at UCís African-American Cultural and Research Center (AACRC), where he took advantage of the centerís program for first-year students called "Transitions."

"He had some rough edges," concurs AACRC Director Eric Abercrumbie. "The center helped him develop academically, and helped him with his presentation skills and leadership development. I think we also helped him realize how to cross cultural lines, because thatís part of what we do. We teach students that they have to be connected to everybody."

"I was a different person than I am now," says Waller. "It all boiled down to wanting to become a better person. One involvement with an organization at the university led to another and another, and I began caring about UC and the community and wanting to bring about positive change."

Waller has always been a good communicator, and he learned to reach out and use those skills in a positive way.

Jason Waller
Jason Waller is one guy who is comfortable in front of a microphone.

He considers his biggest contribution on campus to be his service for nearly three years as a student senator in student government from the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.

He was also a BearCAT Ambassador to the surrounding community, and served in UCís Office of Judicial Affairs, including on a committee that reviewed the Student Code of Conduct. He was the president of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and served in leadership positions with campus organizations such as the Program Activities Council, the Men of Metro and Sigma Sigma.

His message to the graduates will be the seven lessons learned through the college experience beyond the classroom walls. "The education weíve received has really molded and shaped who we are," Waller says.

"There are so many things that have happened here," he says. "I think the simple things will end up meaning a lot Ė those times when you were able to stay up all night with your friends, laughing. Those times are priceless. You are so often overwhelmed in college, so you end up remembering those laughing times as the greatest of times."

Waller is not yet sure what his next step in life will be. He may be joining a program that will allow him to teach in South Korea for a year, or he may be getting a job. He has minored in paralegal studies, and can obtain a certificate for that kind of work with about 15 more hours in the classroom, a prospect he finds appealing.

But for the moment, his focus is on his college career and ending it by putting it in the right perspective.

"As I became more connected with my community, I grew," says Waller. "I was always pretty smart, but I became intelligent. I grew into a man."

Adds Abercrumbie: "I like the fact he beat the stereotype of what people think of when they think of Lincoln Heights. A lot of times you have to be tough to make it out of areas like that. Heís the kind of story you like to be able to talk about at the end. It demonstrates how the university can make a difference in peopleís lives."

UC Commencement Web Site

UC Commencement News