05/11/08 — WCC hands out 455 diplomas at Friday ceremony

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WCC hands out 455 diplomas at Friday ceremony

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 11, 2008 10:57 AM

More than 450 students received degrees, certificates and dilpomas Friday evening at Wayne Community College’s spring commencement.

But someone was missing.

In fact, as the Class of 2008 celebrated a milestone reached, Susan Wills was tending to her classroom — and home.

A Thursday evening lightning strike in Alamance County ended the Distance Education student’s dream of walking across the Goldsboro stage.

School officials said she was in tears when she called to inform them.

But Mrs. Wills’ Emergency Preparedness Technology certificate ended up in good hands Friday.

Her son, Aaron, made sure she was represented.

A Goldsboro firefighter, Aaron said his mother’s house is “all right.”

There is damage and a mess to clean up, but no one was hurt, he said — and to the Wills family, that is all that matters.

“They are OK,” Aaron said. “Things will turn out all right.”

So instead of worrying about their safety as he sat among a sea of cap- and gown-clad students during the ceremony, he smiled when her name was called and accepted his mother’s achievement on her behalf.

“I’m proud to be here for her,” he said.

Others were proud to be there, too.

Dr. Kay Albertson, in her first commencement as college president, said she was “honored” to stand before the “largest walking class to date.”

“What a beautiful day,” she said. “It’s so great to see all of you out there.”

And then there were the students and their parents — all with something unique to be proud of.

Corey Harris could not wait to tell his peers that he would be continuing his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.

“My GPA was a 2.4 after completing my first semester. Now I stand before you with a 3.4 GPA. The time I’ve spent here has shown me that it’s not how many mistakes you make, but whether you learn from those mistakes that is important,” he said. “I hope that you all who aren’t in college get inspired to take the necessary steps to obtain your education.”

Monique Barrett couldn’t hold back her excitement as she talked about her neice’s “special moment.”

“To see a child you are close to take this huge step is a blessing,” she said. “This place does wonderful things for its students.”

Wills knows all about those wonderful things.

College staffers allowed him to pass on wearing his mother’s cap and gown and attend the ceremony in his GFD dress uniform.

Commencement speaker Hilda Pinnix-Ragland knows, too.

As chairwoman of the State Board of Community Col-leges, she has seen time and time again what a community college education can do.

So as she closed her remarks, she offered those on hand this advice.

“You have demonstrated that you are, indeed, masters of your fate. You worked hard to get to this place in time,” she said. “Don’t stop, embrace the ideal of lifelong learning — whether it’s in the college classroom or in the classroom of life.”

Harris knows he won’t.

Not after what he learned from his teachers at WCC.

“Education is like water,” he said. “Without it, the seeds for success will not grow.”