SANFORD — Super Bowl Sunday couldn’t be more exciting than Graduation Thursday was for the Central Carolina Community College students who scored impressive academic touchdowns.
More than 1,000 family members and friends gathered at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center Jan. 29 to celebrate their achievement in the college’s Continuing Education high school completion programs.
Sixty-two students earned high school diplomas and 220 earned General Educational Development certificates during the fall semester. Approximately 100 took part in the commencement exercises.
“Be proud,” graduation speaker Angela Albright told her classmates. “We’ve proven that we can make our dreams reality.”
Albright was one of three speakers, one from each of the counties the college serves. Each told their stories and thanked their families, friends and teachers for the support that enabled them to achieve their long-desired goal.
Albright, of Chatham County, spoke of her long battle with alcoholism. She finally found help through Alcoholics Anonymous. As she stabilized her life, she decided to go back to school for her GED, a goal that had eluded her until she enrolled at the college’s GED program in Siler City.
“I changed my life, gave up some bad habits to pursue my education, “ she said. “To achieve this feels like freedom. This is my opportunity to make my dreams reality. I’ve always wanted to work with animals and now I’ve started in the college’s veterinary medical technology program.”
Angel Soto, of Harnett County, also spoke. He said that he made many mistakes as a teenager, but that not getting an education was the worst of all.
“Thank you very much CCCC for giving me the opportunity to succeed in life,” he said. “I’m a minority, but I understand that there’s opportunity — as long as you are persistent, you will achieve.”
Soto now plans to enroll in the college’s law enforcement training program and hopes someday to become a detective.
Toney Thompson, of Lee County, the third graduation speaker, urged anyone in the audience who hadn’t graduated high school to take advantage of the opportunity to do so. She thanked GED instructor Eileen Harrington for the tough love and encouragement that enabled her to reach her goal.
“It feels wonderful,” she said. “Now, I’m in the medical assisting program at the college.”
Three members of the graduating class received CCCC Foundation scholarships: Albright; Amber Brewington, of Harnett County; and Christopher Castle, of Lee County. Sim Montae Spears, of Lee County, was awarded the W. B. Wicker Scholarship. Each graduate received a voucher redeemable for one three-credit course at the college, an encouragement for them to continue pursuing their educational dreams.
Bobby Powell, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, and college President Bud Marchant presented the diplomas. As each graduating student walked across the stage, cheers, whistles, and applause erupted from the enthusiastic crowd. Cameras flashed, capturing the life-changing event.
“You have wonderful, wonderful opportunities ahead of you,” Marchant told the new graduates. “I encourage you to take advantage of them.”
Then the graduates proudly walked out of the Center’s large exhibition hall, into the happy embraces of their loved ones and into a future that was brighter than any they had yet known.