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Cousins continue family tradition with UAPB commencement
Cousins continue family tradition with UAPB commencement

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (UAPB) - For cousins, Cornovious Branch Jr. (CJ) and Tara A. Branch, completing a college education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a celebration of a deeply rooted family tradition.

During Spring Commencement on May 9, 2015, these millennials will follow in the footsteps of over 90 relatives who have graduated from the university. The Branch family tradition at UAPB is built upon a foundation of Faith, Family and Education. It began in the early 1920s when Annie Branch Gentry completed her studies at Branch Normal Agricultural Mechanical and Normal College, (currently known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). The educational tradition has continued for decades producing a lineage of doctors, lawyers, educators, engineers, pastors, entrepreneurs, entertainers and more.

CJ and Tara are thrilled to add their names to this ever growing list of UAPB scholars. Embracing the ideals of their grandparents the late John Wes Branch and Dorothy Mae Jackson Branch (Watson, Arkansas), these cousins understand the value of a college education and have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. Their strong work ethic is no surprise given that their fathers belong to the Fabulous Fifteen - 15 siblings who all matriculated to UAPB from their family farm in Watson, Arkansas. Year after year, a new sibling began the journey from farmer to scholar, and all 15 graduated from the university. Tara's father, John W. Branch III, enjoys the distinction of being the first of the Fabulous Fifteen to graduate from AM&N/UAPB."My parents taught us to nurture and care for one another while we attended school," he explains. "Each sibling knew he was responsible for the success of his brothers and sisters." Born 3 weeks apart, the pair have been traveling through life together and supporting each other's goals. As 2010 graduates of Watson Chapel High School (Pine Bluff, AR), the cousins decided to continue their educational journeys together at UAPB. For Tara, attending UAPB was a no brainer. She received tremendous support from her parents, aunts, uncles, and her older siblings. "My family's support has been invaluable. They are so proud of my accomplishments. It's a great feeling!" CJ also credits his loving family for influencing his college choice. "It was expected. My family is full of proud alumni of UAPB. They inspired me to work hard and to go after my dreams." One of those dreams included playing on the 2012 SWAC Champion Golden Lions Football Team. The bond between these cousins was forged with the constant love and support of the Branch family, but Tara reminds others that it is the family's faith in God that has been most influential for their success. "I feel so blessed to be a part of the Branch legacy. It wasn't easy, but our family understands that when you put God first, you have the support to accomplish any goal." The Branch family believes in encouraging other students to meet their educational goals. There is an annual scholarship named in honor of CJ and Tara's great aunt and uncle. "The Ezell and Grace Branch Endowment Scholarship" is available for non-family members to apply. CJ Branch is the son of Cornovious and Annette Branch of Pine Bluff. He will graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Business and Marketing. He is a member of St. John A.M.E. church in Watson, Arkansas.Tara A. Branch is the daughter of John and Paula Branch of Pine Bluff. She will graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Health, Physical Education, and Wellness. She is a member of Family Church in White Hall, Arkansas.

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