DOBSON — Surry Community College’s Corporate and Continuing Education Division celebrated its High School Equivalency graduates opening a door previously closed to them at a commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon.
According to College and Career Readiness Director Virginia Stammetti, 199 graduates participated. Fifty-six of those were honor graduates which means they scored a 2800 or higher on the equivalency tests they took between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013. Stammetti told the large group of graduates’ family and friends their loved ones were among 14,300 graduates from North Carolina earning the honor.
She said the statewide percentage of those passing the exam was 84.8 percent while 94.5 percent of the participants in Surry’s program passed.
She honored two as oldest graduates. They are 72-year-old Virginia Hincher and 91-year-old Ted Coleman. Coleman, who is a volunteer tutor for the school’s ESL program, was told he would receive the honor shortly before students unfurled a banner announcing his achievement.
ESL students also paid for Coleman’s cap and gown. Stammetti explained he had approached her with an official testing document from 1936 and wondered if the college could give him credit. She said that he tested in the 96th and 99th percentiles, earning him the honor.
Stammetti recognized brothers Therman Largen II and Clifton Linville, brothers-in-law Jerry Lawson and David Gravely and aunt and nephew Josie Webb and Brandon Casey for earning high school equivalency.
Vice President for Corporate & Continuing Education Dr. George Sappenfield made some brief remarks before introducing the featured speaker, College President Dr. David Shockley.
“This is truly a program representative of our entire college,” said Sappenfield. “Our speaker is a true leader and visionary who appreciates every one of us, especially the students.” He told the graduates the faculty was there for them if they needed anything.
Shockley opened his speech by recognizing the sacrifices family and friends make to support the graduates.
“It takes a team to make this happen,” Shockley said, noting meals which went uncooked and time spent away from families so the graduates could study.
He pointed out that the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) is the third largest in the nation and said it is one of the most recognized in the world.
“On Jan. 9, 2014, Surry Community will turn 50,” Shockley said. “Today these students become part of an academic legacy begun, remembered and carried on. Organizations have a heart and soul. You graduates are now part of this. You will leave behind a part of you and your personalities and experiences with the faculty.”
He guaranteed them if they reflected on where they began their journey they would know they had changed for the better. Shockley said he agreed with Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt who believed democracy can best exist with the participation of educated citizens.
“I challenge all of you to continue your education today,” said Shockley. “In today’s economy you are often competing against communities and against the world. I want you to become a life-long learner. When you are strong, our community is strong. Go forth in confidence and a renewed vigor for living, embracing changes in your life.”
High School Equivalency Scholarship recipients recognized were David Glasson, Jessica Piatt, Clifton Linville, Timothy Amos, Michael Cornell, McKinley Garris, Johana Diaz, Garland Dawson, Haley Cline, Obadiah Guy, Samantha Brewster and John Belt. The services of Business and Engineering Technologies Instructional Assistant Carrie Utt as pianist also were honored. Instructor Legy Beal and student Suzanne Steward sang “Because I Knew You” from the musical “Wicked.”
David Glasson was recognized as valedictorian and Jessica Piatt was salutatorian. Student Ambassadors Emily Hambrick, Shelby Pendleton, Tyler Robbins and Vivian Leftwich also were recognized for their efforts supporting the ceremony.
During the informal reception held in the Knights Grill, graduate Josie Webb seemed to sum up the feelings of many of their classmates. Webb said it took her nine years to earn the honor, spanning 11 surgeries and four children.
“I just kept coming back until I got this,” said Webb. “I have had a lot of family support. I had a lot of people telling me I could do it especially my mom, Helen Casey, and my husband, Danny.”
She said she already had made her oldest daughter, Alisha, promise her she would continue through high school “and maybe college.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.