SANFORD — The largest spring curriculum graduating class in the history of Central Carolina Community College celebrated its achievements during two graduation exercises May 17 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.
Family members and friends, approximately 1.300 at each of the exercises, filled the Civic Center to applaud and cheer their graduates who had worked so hard for this day.
As the graduating students marched in to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” at each exercise, the audience rose, honoring their achievements. The faces of the students themselves expressed joy, amazement and relief at what they had accomplished.
Those expressions changed to universal smiles as they soon heard their names announced individually and walked across the stage to receive their credentials from CCCC President Bud Marchant and CCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Ed Garrison in the morning exercises and Marchant and trustee Frances Warner in the afternoon exercises.
During the graduation, Warner was recognized by Marchant for her 12 years of service on the board, helping to make the college the great institution it has become.
During the 2010-11 academic year, the graduating students earned almost 1,000 credentials, with some earning more than one: 270 Associate in Applied Science degrees, 82 Associate in Arts degrees, 10 Associate in Science degrees, 158 diplomas, and 445 certificates.
About 130 students received their A.A.S. degrees, diplomas, and certificates in curriculum vocational and business programs at the 11 a.m. ceremony. Approximately 200 more received A.A. or A.S. degrees; or A.A.S. degrees, diplomas, and certificates in medical and public service programs at the 3 p.m. ceremony.
Graduation speaker Michael Manuel, of Chatham County, told the graduating class that the knowledge and relationships they formed at the school would last a lifetime. He had returned to school in 2009 after the job he had for 16 years disappeared in the recession. He earned A.A.S. degrees in Industrial Systems and Industrial Systems Bio-maintenance and was the first I.S. graduate to speak at a commencement.
“Thanks to CCCC for continuing to create educational opportunities and change lives,” he said.
Four graduation speakers, two at each of the exercises, had been chosen for their academic excellence, involvement in organizations at the college and service to the community. In addition to Manuel, of Chatham County, Shirley Rijkse, of Harnett County, spoke at the morning exercises. She received A.A.S. degrees in Human Resources Management and Accounting.
Speakers at the 3 p.m. exercises were Cheryl Reynolds, of Harnett County, who received both an A.A. and an A.S.; and Dana Stone, of Harnett County, who received an A.A.S. in Criminal Justice Technology.
All thanked the college and their instructors not only for teaching them the skills to enter or re-enter the workforce, but also for helping them gain more confidence in themselves and learn how to achieve and to help others do so.
Rijkse urged audience members to pursue their dreams by continuing their education and to be, as she had learned to be, “the wind beneath someone else’s wings.”
At the end of each of the commencement exercises, the graduates exited the hall and entered the Civic Center foyer. Family and friends lined their path on either side, applauding and cheering with cameras flashing and celebratory balloons and flowers handed to the happy graduates.
Deborah Motter, of Lee County, was greeted by her husband, Rick, and lead sculpture instructor Phil Ashe. Motter has been sculpting since 1989 and has her own business, Artful Brush. She came to CCCC to learn more and received her A.A.S. in Professional Arts and Crafts: Sculpture.
“I’ve learned a lot at the college,” she said. “It broadened my horizons.” Then she smiled and added, “I’ve already signed up for more classes.”
Many in the graduating class had returned to school after losing jobs in the recession.
“This is the happiest day of the year,” Marchant said with a smile. “We have truly affected these graduates’ lives for good, especially those who came back to learn new job skills. Many already have jobs, and many have interviews lined up. CCCC has helped them transition from a bad situation into a good situation.”