HAMLET — Richmond Community College awarded 408 degrees and diplomas during commencement exercises at the Cole Auditorium for one of its largest graduating classes.
Because the number of students earning credentials from RichmondCC keeps growing each year, the college holds a morning and afternoon ceremony, each having its own guest speaker.
This year, those guest speakers were faculty members who had life lessons to deliver to the Class of 2018 as they embark on this new journey.
English instructor Lara Nosser was the guest speaker at the morning ceremony. Nosser talked about growing up in a small village in the Middle East during the midst of a civil war. Because the government rationed utilities, she and her family often went days without electricity and drinking water.
“Bombs would interrupt school days, and gunfire seemed to be the norm. Despite these impoverished circumstances, my father continually insisted that education was the key to success,” Nosser said.
However, when Nosser was sent to live in the United States, the educational system wanted to classify her as remedial because of her accent and last name.
“I could’ve accepted this placement. I could’ve gone with the flow; after all, everything was so easy, but my father’s words would not let me,” she said. “I went to the vice principal’s office and asked for different classes. I insisted I could do more.”
After solving multiple algebra equations in his office, she was given a chance to be moved into regular classes.
“My point is had I simply allowed someone else’s idea of my intelligence to define me, I may not be here today,” Nosser said.
Nosser also talked about not being afraid of failure because it is a part of life.
“Failures are inevitable. Don’t be ashamed of them; being defeated is optional. You can either let your failure destroy you, or you can get back up swinging,” Nosser said.
Her closing piece of advice for the graduates was accepting different points of view and not letting emotion outweigh logic.
“Today you are college graduates; you should no longer have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. Discussing our differences allows us to find common ground, so you shouldn’t silence others because you are too sensitive to hear what they have to say,” Nosser said. “The purpose of college is to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world, to give you a well rounded picture, enable you to step back, and use logic rather than emotion.”
Brian Terry, an instructor for the Electric Utility Substation and Relay Technology (EUSRT) program and last year’s Faculty of the Year award winner, delivered the speech at the afternoon ceremony. He encouraged the graduates to be lifelong learners and to continue developing the critical thinking skills that they learned at RichmondCC.
“Please don’t stop here! If you stop right here and do not learn any more it is the same as if you built the foundation for a house but not finish the home — and that would be a waste of your potential,” Terry said. “You have received a foundation to a lifelong journey of learning. It will be up to you to carry your knowledge to the next level.”
Terry was an Electrical Systems Technology instructor for RichmondCC, but he was curious to learn more about the EUSRT program so he began sitting in on these classes about three years ago. Because of his curiosity, he was able to become an instructor for that curriculum and become a program coordinator.
Terry’s yearning to learn more became evident at a young age.
“I would take things apart just to see what was on the inside. You can just imagine the look on my mom’s face when she came home from a hard day at work to find that her 6-year-old child had completely disassembled every phone in the house and was showing her that though they looked the same on the outside, they were put together differently on the inside,” Terry said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t put the phones back together, which got me into hot water with my mom, but I still learned.”
Terry passed along some advice from his father who passed away a year ago.
“My dad told me that this world will take a lot from you, but it can never take the love that you feel and the education that you have. I carry that saying with me everywhere I go, so I will always look for an opportunity to learn or teach.
“If you’re not learning, you’re not moving forward,” he added.
Dale McInnis, RichmondCC president, called the spring commencement ceremony the pinnacle of the college’s academic year.
“This is the moment we all cherish. It’s the day we strive for and look forward to with great anticipation all year long,” McInnis said.
McInnis recognized the many people who support the college and its students, including the RichmondCC Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, as well as the family and friends attending the graduation ceremony.
McInnis, however, reminded everyone that this day belongs to the graduates, and he praised them for their hard work and determination in reaching this moment. He then introduced Student Government Associate President Jessika Hall, who shared her story of success with her fellow graduates.
Hall explained that this was her second degree she was earning from RichmondCC as she struggled to figure out what she was going to do in life.
“Dr. McInnis is a man with a plan, and he wants you to have a plan,” Hall said. “He told me this time around I had to know what I was doing, or he wasn’t going to hand me my diploma.”
Hall said she knew Dr. McInnis was challenging her because he cared about her future.
“If it wasn’t for Dr. McInnis and for the faculty and staff always having an open door for me, I wouldn’t be standing here before you today. These people are here for you even after you leave today,” she said.
Hall issued her own challenge to her fellow graduates “to go out into the world and be bold, be honest, be loyal and be the best that you can be.”
Several students were recognized for their academic achievements at Saturday’s graduation.
Tina White – Dodd-Moore Humanities Award
James Saiz – Joseph D. Beam Excellence in Engineering Award
Kevin Taylor – Robert D. Street Academic Excellence Award for Superior Achievement in Information Technology
Mary Elizabeth Turner – The Richmond County Historical Society Award for Excellence in History
Dustin Bittle – The Paul H. Many Award for Superior Performance in Electrical/Electronics Technology
Sage Atkins – Excellence in Science Award
Wylie Bell is director of marketing and communications at Richmond Community College