Tears, cheers, and life-long memories were the theme of Tri-County Community College’s (TCCC) 2016 commencement ceremony, where 118 students, their families, friends, TCCC faculty and staff came together to celebrate their achievements in a standing room-only Enloe Multi-Purpose Room on the main campus in Peachtree on May 6.
Dr. Donna Tipton Rogers, president of TCCC, began the evening by asking the students who were graduating to stand, turn, and face the audience.
“Tonight is about you,” said Tipton-Rogers, gesturing to the room, overflowing with guests and loved ones. “I want you to look out and see how many people have come out to support you and to celebrate this great achievement with you.”
Family members of some graduates weren’t just in the audience, however.
Erica Wallace, who earned her associate degree in nursing, graduated with her brother, Matthew McTaggert, who gained a diploma in welding, and their mother, Barbara McTaggert, who received her associate degree in human services technology. Also celebrating their graduation together were Robin Bickel and her daughter, Alexandria Bickel.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her,” Robin said about her daughter pushing her to participate in the ceremony.
Several annual faculty and staff awards were also given, all nominated by faculty, staff and students. Ray Kaylor received the Excellence in Teaching Award; Marianne Leek was given the adjunct faculty Excellence in Teaching Award; Byron Hampton, Melvin Hicks, Brian Lambert, Matt Pressley, and Jason Roberts, who comprise TCCC’s maintenance staff, received the Excellence in Staff Award.
Following the ceremony, the graduates gathered outside to reminisce, take pictures, and enjoy light refreshments with TCCC faculty and staff.
The weeklong celebration began on April 28, with the medical assisting pinning, where 10 graduates received their pins, and culminated on May 7 with the high school equivalency graduation ceremony.
Students receiving their medical assisting pins were given words of encouragement and advice from Joan Ledford, instructor for health sciences at TCCC, with the theme of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
“You are all beautiful butterflies now leaving your cocoons to enter the world,” Ledford said, voice shaking with emotion. “Today we are honored to celebrate in your achievements and to remind you that those of us at Tri-County will always be here for you, no matter where you may go.”
On May 4, Dr. Tipton-Rogers, Dr. Steve Wood, vice president for instruction and institutional effectiveness, and Scott Sherrill, dean of vocational and business technologies, traveled to Haywood Community College for the Region A Nursing Consortium’s traditional Nursing Pinning ceremony.
“This is an incredible group of dedicated and hardworking students,” Tipton-Rogers said. “Every day we strive to give our students the very best we have to offer so that they, in turn, can help enrich the communities in which we all live, and this year’s nursing program graduates will exemplify that ideal.”
In a moving high school equivalency graduation on May 7, students gained the opportunity to speak about their experience at TCCC.
“For the last 30 years I’ve felt like there was a hole inside me that could only be filled by going back to finish my education,” said Joan Gifford, who received her high school equivalency diploma on May 7. “It took something terrible – losing my job – to turn into something so wonderful as me returning to school to finally earn an education.”
Dr. Tipton-Rogers addressed the graduates’ struggles and their triumphs in the crowded Enloe Room 101.
“I look out into this crowd and I see joy, and tears, and relief, but most of all, I see an overwhelming sense of pride,” Tipton-Rogers said. “No matter the struggles you faced, you each chose to come back and finish your education – for yourselves, your parents, your children, or even your friends – and we are so honored to have traveled this journey with you.”
For more information about Tri-County Community College, please call (828) 837-6810.
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