SANFORD — Excitement, joy and enthusiasm filled the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center as Central Carolina Community College celebrated its 47th annual Spring Commencement.
Family and friends of the Class of 2010 filled the hall with cheers — and lots of applause —as the graduating students walked across the stage to receive their degrees, certificates and diplomas.
“This is the most exciting day on the academic calendar,” CCCC President Bud Marchant told the graduates. “You are about to enter the world as graduates of Central Carolina Community College. I can’t say how proud we are of you. This is the day you celebrate all of your accomplishments with your friends and family.”
A total of 222 Associate in Applied Science, 73 Associate in Arts and seven Associate in Science degrees; 110 diplomas; and 360 certificates were earned by the graduating class, with some students earning more than one.
Two graduation ceremonies were held due to the large number of students: an 11 a.m. ceremony for about 200 students attending to receive AAS degrees, diplomas and certificates in vocational, business and public service programs; and a 3 p.m. ceremony for about 100 students receiving AA and AS degrees, and AAS degrees, diploma, and certificates in medical programs.
Speakers for both commencement sessions were chosen by the recommendations of faculty. Alex Dawson, of Harnett County (AAS in Laser and Photonics Technology) and Donna Flowers, of Lee County, (AAS in Business Administration) delivered the addresses at the morning graduation.
Afternoon speakers were Robert Bridges, of Lee County, (A.S.-University Transfer); Danielle Howarth, of Harnett, (AAS in Dental Hygiene); and Lee Early College graduating student Hillary Akers (Associate in Arts-University Transfer).
Dawson said being dyslexic made school difficult for him and he had no desire to continue his education after high school. In addition, he is a recovering alcoholic. With encouragement from his wife, Rebecca, he finally enrolled at Central Carolina C.C.
“The college opened my eyes to education again,” he said. “It’s never too late to pursue your dreams and your goals.”
Akers was one of four Lee Early College students who received associate degrees from CCCC during the commencement. On May 17, they will also receive their high school diplomas as members of the first graduating class of LEC.
Lee Early College opened in 2006 on CCCC’s Lee County Campus as a collaborative effort between Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College. Its students earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree or university transfer credits in just four to five years.
“If there is one lesson that I have learned from my experiences here it is that, when you find a community of people who can truly break the stereotypes set in stone by society, you have found a community of people who cannot fail,” she told the graduates and audience.
She said that, with Lee Early College, CCCC broke through many stereotypes about adolescents, believing that high school age students could, with encouragement, achieve at the college level.
“I believe that they have been proved right,” she said.
The hall erupted with cheers and the clicking of cameras as the graduating students’ names were called and each walked across the stage to receive the hard-earned degree, diploma or certificate from Marchant. When all were presented, CCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Bobby Powell instructed the graduates to move the tassels on their caps from the right to the left side, symbolic of their achievement.
The excitement of the commencements carried into the Wicker Center’s foyer as the graduates reunited with their family and friends to receive congratulations and to congratulate each other.
“It feels fantastic,” said Tanya Haislip, of Lee County, who received her AAS in Accounting degree and Certificate in Payroll Accounting. “I can’t explain it.”
Haislip, who served as SGA president, is now looking forward to working and then earning a bachelor’s degree over time.
Jeremy Rushlow and Gary Allen, both of Chatham, had the distinction of being the college’s first recipients of its AAS in Alternative Energy Technology: Biofuels. CCCC is the first and only community college in North Carolina, and perhaps the nation, to offer this degree.
“I’m relieved,” Rushlow said of achieving his degree. He’s not stopping there. He plans to now earn an Associate in Science-University Transfer and then go to Appalachian State University.
Kevin Bruton, of Harnett, was a man of few words in describing his feelings on earning his AAS and Diploma in Networking Technology: “Wow! Blessed! — Now I’m going to work!”