The 665 students Southern University graduated Friday were led by a chief student marshal who is heading to Harvard Law School.

Daniel Joiner, of Baker, said he would teach reading this summer then leave for Cambridge, Massachusetts, in August. He graduated as an English major with a 3.8 grade-point average.

Despite budget issues at Southern University, the 21-year-old said he never considered going to any other college when he graduated from Redemptorist High School four years ago.

The historically black university provided the supportive atmosphere that helped him learn and achieve, he said in an interview.

“This would not have been possible had I not gone to Southern,” Joiner said of being accepted to Harvard. The mentoring, support and personal attention Southern’s professors provided helped him mature, learn focus and prepare him for the nation’s pre-eminent law school, whose alumni include President Barack Obama and three U.S. Supreme Court justices, he said.

The spring 2015 commencement attracted thousands to the north Baton Rouge campus. Friends and families braved strangled traffic and harried cops to find a place to park then joined the standing-room-only crowd at F.G. Clark Activity Center, where the ceremony took place.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, gave the commencement address.

She asked the graduating students to strive for significance and to leave legacies. Broome, who is running for mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish, also asked the graduates never to take for granted the right to vote.

An obviously proud mother, Bernadette Jopes Joiner said afterward that she had taught both her children to read before they entered kindergarten and drilled them on their school studies every day. Daniel’s older brother is earning his master’s degree in history at Louisiana Tech.

His father, Hannibal Joiner, a lawyer, said he let Daniel, as a child, tag along with him to court.

Daniel showed, at an early age, the curiosity and ability to analyze situations necessary to finding the key issue, his father said.

“At some point, you see how much lawyers impact people’s lives,” the younger Joiner said. His “safety school” was the Columbia Law School.

He is unsure just what area of the law he’ll focus his studies. But he has an interest in constitutional, civil rights and corporate law.

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